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December 28, 2006

“Ethic of Immortality ” Sapping Our Humanity?

The January 07 issue of Christianity Today (no link available) has a fine editorial warning against what it calls an “ethic of immortality” that has “warped our culture’s perspective” and that of the church. It quotes Leon Kass–always a good idea–as warning that a “new moral sensibility has developed . . . Anything is permitted if it saves life, cures disease, prevents death.” (My emphasis.)

Can anyone deny it? CT notes that the ethic of immortality causes Christian and non Christian alike to support destroying nascent human life in ESCR. But it could just as easily have pointed out that many of the same arguments made on behalf of ESCR would justify exploiting living fetuses for their parts, and indeed, that New Jersey has already legalized cloned fetal farming. Moreover, many of our leading bioethicists support harvesting cognitively devastated patients or experimenting upon them before they are dead, while a thriving organ market exists in China–for those with the money to pay and the willingness to overlook from where and whom that quickly obtained liver or kidney may have come. And many transhumanists are even willing to cast their humanity aside in their quest for a corporeal near-immortality.

CT warns that our terror of death is distorting our ethics and moral values. Like the drowning man willing to push the lifeguard under the water to take one more breath, we are becoming increasingly willing to exploit the weak to benefit the strong.

Christianity Today is oriented to Christian perspectives, but I think this paragraph, aimed explicitly at church members is also applicable to the wider community:

We disparage the elderly when we let our media focus exclusively on the young, when visitation to nursing homes is replaced with more exciting mercy activities, when we fuss over young visitors with children but offer only polite handshakes to elderly couples, when we avoid the sick and dying. If the church learned to care for those on their final journey (rather than leaving it to the clergy), it would do much to reshape our attitudes toward the use of technology at the end of life.

Do I hear an, “Amen?”

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