In their conclusion to Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families, authors Ben Mitchell and Joy Riley discuss a way forward amidst the challenges to preserving humanity in a “biotech century”:
What are Christians to do in face of these challenges? First, Christians must remain at the forefront of medicine. Nowhere are Christian compassion and care more needed and more evident than in human medicine. Providing healing medicine for someone who is suffering the unease of illness or injury is a powerful expression of neighbor love. Not only so, but Christians understand that caring for others is a means of serving their Lord. After all, Jesus taught his disciples that one day he would return and say to the faithful:
“‘For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did
we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You
something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and
take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did
we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever
you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine,
you did for Me.’ ” (Matt 25:35–40)
As we have tried to show in this book, as we move farther away from the Judeo-Christian, Hippocratic virtues of medicine, the more difficult it will be to treat patients as persons made in God’s image. In an age of skyrocketing health-care costs, we will be tempted increasingly to focus on the economics of medicine. Economic issues are important, of course, but we must not forget that human lives are at stake. Historically, Christians have been pioneers in alternative ways of providing care. The early Christian remedy for infanticide, for instance, was not first to petition Caesar to make it illegal but to establish orphanages to take in the little ones needing care. More recently, the hospice movement began when a Christian nurse, Dame Cicely Saunders, became concerned to offer better care for people at the end of life. With a growing euthanasia movement around the world, Christians must rise to the occasion to offer a compassionate alternative to ending a patient’s life prematurely through a medicalized killing.
Finally, Christians can take a lead in shepherding biotechnologies in directions that truly serve human needs and not just pander to human desire. Technologically achieved immortality is neither possible nor desirable. God has already made us humans immortal. How we protect biomedicine and biotechnology from doing harm now is the urgent question. How we continue to develop them in ways that contribute robustly to human well-being is the challenge.
Download a sample chapter here.
About the Authors:
Ben Mitchell is Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and an ordained minister with pastoral experience. He received his Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his PhD in Philosophy with a concentration in Medical Ethics at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. (Bioethics), is Executive Director of The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture in Brentwood, Tennessee, and also serves as ethics consultant for a Nashville, Tennessee, area hospital. Board certified in internal medicine, her writing and lecture topics include medical ethics, organ transplantation ethics, stem cell research, genetics, and assisted reproductive technologies.