Known as the “Autism Pastor,” Lamar Hardwick is an essential voice in a rising field: the theology of disability. In Disability and the Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion, the author is true to the subtitle, casting a pastor’s vision for positive change in the church.
Extremism, which is variously regarded as the adversary of peaceful moderation or the vanguard of righteous dissent, often is immediately recognizable, but sometimes it may be ambiguous, insidious, or undefined. Growing apprehensions about mainstream extremism reflect a linguistic contraindication that may be a symptom of cultural disorientation. Insights from neuroscience suggest that some forms of extremism may arise from an imbalance of brain pathways involved in moral reasoning, such that those signaling sacred valuations and rule processing attain dominance over those representing empathy and deliberative reasoning. If the brain be compared to an orchestra, extremism would be analogous to the unpitched percussion section taking over, the bass drum and clash cymbals intruding into orchestral harmony and drowning out the string and brass sections with harsh, metronomic, auditory hyperintensity. And yet there is a proper role for these instruments. The ideal balance, whether of neural signals or orchestral voices, requires discernment of value beyond factual information. A number of ethical approaches supply moral clarity to assist with making ethical distinctions when convictions reach into the extreme, and while helpful, these leave unanswered deeper questions of ultimate meaning.
Question: May we accept this adolescent Jehovah’s Witness refusal of blood transfusion?
Debbi is a 13½-year-old girl who was well until two weeks ago when she developed knee pain without obvious trauma. She subsequently developed a fever and was admitted to the hospital with a septic knee found to be caused by Staphylococcus Aureus. She was started on appropriate antibiotics, but developed toxic shock and has subsequently been found to have staphylococcal sepsis, osteomyelitis of the femur and bilateral staphylococcal pneumonia with large pleural effusions. Her osteomyelitis has been surgically drained. Her sepsis has come under control with the use of two antibiotics (Vancomycin & Cefotaxime). She is on supplemental oxygen and Total Parenteral Nutrition. The pneumonia is improving, but it has not been possible to relieve the pleural effusions with either needle aspiration or placement of chest tubes, and surgery was proposed for this afternoon. Her Red Blood Cell count has dropped from normal level on admission (hemoglobin = 11.5) to a very low level (6.1). She was begun on erythropoietin (an enzyme to stimulate her bone marrow) several days ago.
Question: Should we go to court to prevent this Samoan man’s family from taking him home against medical advice?
Tuiasosopo is a 39-year-old Samoan agricultural worker who was admitted 7 weeks ago after two weeks of headaches and intermittent nausea and vomiting and blindness for 24 hours. He was found to have cryptococcal meningitis and has been treated with 2 standard antibiotics for this uncommon infection (amphotericin intravenously and flucytosine by mouth). He initially had gradual improvement, demonstrated by repeatedly testing of his spinal fluid and considerable improvement in his mental status. He was nearing the end of his 6-week course of treatment when 1 week ago he suffered a stroke. This precipitated vomiting which precluded retention of his flucytosine for several days. He has subsequently had a worsening of the spinal fluid test, and his mental status is again severely depressed. Immunosuppression is suspected, but no source has been found.
Question: Is it ethically permissible for this young man to stop his ventilator so he will die?
David is a 34-year-old man who has been on a ventilator for 9 years. He was re-admitted to the hospital two weeks ago for treatment of recurrent pneumonia and has improved. He asked yesterday if his ventilator could be stopped.
Christian ethics and moral decision-making can be complex and intimidating to non-theologians. In addition, the authoritative scriptures do not directly address every possible ethical issue. This problem is especially true in bioethics, which evolves continuously based on medical, scientific, and technological advancements. How should Christians view such issues as artificial intelligence, gene editing, and bodily enhancements? Pastors, healthcare professionals, and lay congregants need help. Invitation to Christian Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues, by Kenneth Magnuson, gives moral guidance to the Christian community to navigate these problems. While not perfect, it offers a solid philosophical and practical approach to Christian ethics.
Raising questions related to technology often raises ire on multiple fronts. Some think all technology is neutral. Others lean strongly toward purely positive or purely negative assessments. Yet many neglect the way that analyzing technology connects with other beliefs and commitments. This article seeks to ameliorate this issue and better prepare thinkers to recognize their own web of thinking by exploring progressive evangelical approaches to technology in the 1970s. This historical exploration highlights some key features of the ethics of technology that continue to impact the way Christians ask and answer these questions today, whether that is related to biomedical issues, military technology, or entertainment technology.
In Losing Our Dignity, Camosy’s central driving thesis is that the authority and power of modern medicine “have put an increasing number of human beings outside the circle of protection based on fundamental human equality” (p. 13). This loss of human equality and dignity is based primarily on cognitive disadvantages among neurologically diverse individuals, from those with Down syndrome to others with Alzheimer’s disease. In the eyes of an increasingly secular world, such people have less to offer, therefore less dignity.
Along with nurses and medical doctors, pharmacists have long been recognized, and honored, by the public as professionals exhibiting honesty and high ethical standards. Serving as the medication expert in the healthcare system, both other medical professionals and patients alike rely heavily on the pharmacist’s knowledge and skills related to an increasingly complex landscape of medications and the diseases (or situations) that such are intended to prevent or treat. And it is expected—assumed even—that the pharmacist will leverage such expertise in the best interest of the patient—as a fiduciary, if you will—exercising a competent, selfless, and wise approach to each patient’s care.
Where does religion fit into modern bioethical discourse? According to sociologist Max Weber, the human mind has a “metaphysical need” to seek order, coherence, and meaning, a need to understand ultimate questions about our nature, purpose, and destiny. Yet modern bioethics operates with no presumptive content of the good and eschews “thick” discourse, relying instead on the procedural grammar of the market, contracts, and limited democracy.