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Ethical Values - Abortion

Essay by   •  November 11, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  3,439 Words (14 Pages)  •  1,622 Views

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The medical ethics topic I've investigated is abortion; the deliberate termination of a pregnancy in the womb before the foetus able to survive outside the womb. This imposes significant moral controversy because the opinion is divided in the UK and worldwide, and abortion is often seen as an issue of life and death, or an issue of fundamental human rights. This is the law that allows abortion up to 24 weeks so long as two registered medical practitioners agree to authorise the procedure, the ability to terminate a pregnancy is also there with no time limits if the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or if there is a great risk to the life of the pregnant woman or there is some sequential risk that if the child were born it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities. The key arguments against abortion concern; the sanctity of life, the belief that all life is sacred, Personhood which is the belief that the foetus has a right to life, the rights of a foetus; this is the belief that all humans have the same rights and the conservative argument against abortion, which is that killing is intrinsically wrong.

It is clear that abortion is a significant moral controversy because of the impassioned nature of the debate and the radical steps campaigners take to express their views. For instance, in 2009 the well-known abortion Doctor, George Tiller, was shot dead outside his church in Kansas. Tiller's killer Scott Roeder said, "I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children".

The first major issue that emerges from keeping up with development in the medical ethics surrounding abortion whilst maintaining religious principles is the sanctity of life. The sanctity of life is the view that human life is sacred and of special value. This may lead to the view that abortion is immoral, because it is destructive of human life. It is believed that support for the sanctity of life comes from three main sources. Firstly from Revelation in the Bible, secondly, from the use of reason as known as natural theology and finally Christian teachings which use a combination of both. In the Bible there are many quotations that are used to defend the belief that life is an absolute and intrinsic good and must be protected at all times. Some examples of these are: "whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." Genesis 9. Also "thou shall not commit murder." Exodus 20.

According to the sanctity of life view, because "God created man in his own image" he has an entirely different status from other animals. No animal is made in God's image or has a soul.

Thomas Aquinas used reason to develop his view of the sanctity of life. Aquinas observed since the world has been created by God, that the world would have some kind of divine order to it. He called this order natural law and believes that all humans would be able to work it out, so long as they were able to use their reason. Aquinas believed that the most important of these reason rules was to preserve life thus opposing abortion.

The Roman Catholic Church has also published reports on sanctity of life, there are Vatican papers called: Evangelium vitae and Donum vitae, both of these argue that the sanctity of life is the correct argument and that Roman Catholics should follow the teachings from these papers. "Life is always a good" Evangelium Vitae, this is the opinion that is also followed by the Donum Vitae. The current Pope Benedict has not ratified or changed either of these documents; he was reported to have said "be promoters of life, from its beginning until its natural end." Vatican Scholars use a mix of revealed theology and philosophical reason.

Albert Schweitzer was an early 20th-century doctor, writer, and philosopher. He developed a theory called reverence for life; he argued that we should have reverence for all forms of life as all forms of life have a will to live.

Mary Ann Warren, however, has argued with this theory. She suggested that will is based upon the capacity to think which many life forms do not have. She argues that we are all genetically built to promote our own survival, but this is not something that is deserving of reverence. Instead, Warren suggests that we should simply aim to protect the biological community for its own sake. She also argues that is not possible to conclude from a feeling of reverence for life that abortion is wrong. Human foetuses are living things as are unfertilised ova. However, many abortions can be defended as killing under the "compulsion of necessity".

Glover is also a critique of the sanctity of life; he says that the issue is that those who emphasise the sanctity of life hold the view that the killing is directly wrong. It is wrong because it affects in a negative way the person killed. This can be distinguished from the side-effects of killing, the negative impact it has on friends, family, etc. He says the killing is not intrinsically wrong but it is directly wrong. He also asks "do we value life, even if unconscious or do we value life only as a vehicle for consciousness?" You might suggest that life is valuable, no matter what. However, Glover is less than convinced by this. He states the problem with having mere consciousness does not distinguish us from other higher animals. For example chimpanzees are also conscious. What could be especially valuable about our human life? From this we can see that Glover thinks that a foetus is a person as soon as it is conceived.

Glover also asks is a life worth living? He states. This because perhaps life is worth living if someone wants to go on living; however, there are problems with this because some people's feelings change due to health. He says that longer worthwhile life is more valuable than a short one, killing however, is not intrinsically wrong. Glover argues that rejecting the sanctity of life concept does not necessarily mean that we no longer treat life without respect. It just means that we can sometimes end lives which do not have any obvious value. But this does not mean that we ascribe no value to life itself. The main facts we can draw from Glover are abortion brings negative consequences. But it's not absolutely wrong, in certain circumstances. Abortion is permissible; he states that there are many exceptions. The sanctity of life argument has many issues, it appears that to agree with the sanctity of life, one cannot condone the killing of animals for food. Sanctity of life is an out-dated concept to believe in, if one continues to believe in it, then drastic measures need to be taken to correct the errors within society. The sanctity of life argument agrees with religious principles and medical

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