Bioethics: Its Impact and Controversy
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- studies controversial issues related to recent advances in medicine and biology from the ethical perspective;
- helps revisiting and revising ethical standards;
- affects ways of treatment and the research practice;
- increases our awareness of ethics in medicine;
- brings about new questions, dilemmas, and controversies that slow down the development of medicine.
Bioethics is an activity involving reflective examination and interpretation of ethical concepts that arise in health care, biotechnology, politics, law, and many other domains, in which ethical standards are involved. Bioethics involves not only those, who directly participate in this or that ambiguous situation but the general public as a whole since the public opinion is one of the major forces that influence ethical standards.
The necessity of bioethics is explained by the fact that with the appearance of new scientific discoveries ethical standards are challenged and often have to be revised to be able to correspond to the requirements of the modern age. Its major impact can be seen in the way sick people are treated today as well as the methods used for research purposes. Nowadays, every patient has a right to be aware of all procedures that he/she has to undergo as well as refuse on the basis of personal beliefs concerning treatment and health care. The same rights are granted to participants of any kind of medical research.
Thus, bioethics certainly increases our understanding of ethics making us care about such issues that were ignored by health care professionals of the previous centuries. However, at the same time, bioethics brings about a lot of new questions, dilemmas, and controversies: e.g. What exceptions does the rule of getting an “informed consent” have? What should be done to embryos created in laboratories? Is cloning of organs ethical?, etc.
Faith Healing and Its Relation to Bioethics
- is a religious practice of healing through a divine intervention;
- is still popular in many communities despite the advances of medicine;
- is believed to be supported by the Bible;
- does not have any scientific ground;
- is responsible for numerous child deaths;
- has its roots in early medical practices in monasteries.
Faith healing is a term that unites all religious practices (prayer, rituals, dances, laying on of hands, etc.) that are performed to achieve physical healing of a patient through a divine intervention. Despite growing access to modern heath care, many believers still assert that faith can cure any disease better than medications or therapies can do as the divine presence is decisive. This method of intervention was popular throughout history and was believed to cure even blindness, deafness, AIDS, cancer, and other serious or incurable conditions.
Many people interpret the Bible as a guide to faith healing as it provides numerous examples of miraculous recovery by the supernatural power. This delusion is popular even in the developed communities: For example, in the United States, more than 70 percent of Americans say that praying to God may cure even terminal diseases. However, despite the popularity of the method, there is no scientific evidence that faith healing is capable of curing ailments or disabilities. On the contrary, a lot of children died when parents decided to refuse traditional medical care in favor of religious practices.
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At the first sight, faith healing is not related to bioethics as the latter is supposed to be based on neutral grounds that are comprehensible and common for all people regardless of their faith. Yet, for a long time, health care was provided by monasteries. Therefore, no distinction between physical and spiritual health was ever made. Even in recent years, the religious implication has not become totally alien to medicine. This can be traced in such issues as euthanasia involving salvation and damnation of the soul.
The Ethics of Faith Healing
Ethical concerns arising from faith healing:
- abuse of rights granted by religious and cultural identity laws;
- the right to reject medical treatment doing harm to oneself;
- the right of parents to refuse treatment for their children;
- belief in religious pre-destination leaving no choice;
- social pressure in faith healing communities;
- absence of legal prosecution of parents whose children died because of faith healing.
The practice of faith healing would be innocent if it was complimentary to medical treatment. However, there now exist hundreds of sects (including the Followers of Christ, Christian Scientists, and the Church of the First Born) that reject all kinds of medical intervention no matter what consequences may follow. On the one hand, protecting religious practices is ethical. Competent health care presupposes respecting the patient’s cultural and religious values and beliefs.
Moreover, it is also ethical to grant patients a freedom of choice in treatment. However, the freedom should not extend beyond the limits where it starts to threaten other people’s lives and well-being. Religion-motivated child abuse can hardly be called ethical no matter what motivation or intention underlies it. The problem is that faith healing sects really believe that children who die are taken by God and no other option was available for them.
Members of such communities experience great pressure of social consensus: On the one hand, their membership is voluntary; on the other–they often pose themselves or their children under a threat of not recovering from a disease following the group opinion. The problem is that such parents are now protected from criminal prosecution by 39 states as it is believed to be ethical to respect their right for the autonomy of decisions.
Pros and Cons of Faith Healing
- the placebo effect;
- promotion of peace of mind and stress reduction;
- relief of physical pain;
- strengthened will to live.
- infant deaths;
- no real help;
- absence of timely intervention.
Although it is evident that faith healing is based more on a delusion rather than on reality, it must be admitted that it still has certain positive implications. First and foremost, the placebo effect can help achieve improvement in the patient’s state. The effect consists in a beneficial influence of a practice, a medicine or a procedure, which is not connected with the intervention itself but is produced due to the patient’s belief in its effectiveness.
As a result of this, peace of mind can be achieved. Patients who think that their condition is pre-determined by the divine power usually feel calmer, more positive, and cheerful. They are less subjected to stress if the disease progresses. Moreover, their faith often helps them to relieve physical sufferings since they see themselves as biblical martyrs. Therefore, their will to live is strengthened as recovery is perceived as God’s mercy and blessing.
Nevertheless, these positive aspects are outweighed by negative ones. First and foremost, faith healing is responsible for a great number of infant deaths. The statistics is worrying: Over 200 children have died during 20 years in the United States because their parents opted for religious practices. Furthermore, no real improvement in the state of the patient has ever been recorded after faith healing practices. Even when it does not result in death, it often prevents patients from receiving timely medical assistance.