Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for the ‘commentary’ Category


Fighting Over Frozen Lives

Monday, September 28th, 2015


The latest chapter in the embryo wars is in California, where a couple is engaged in a bitter custody dispute over the woman’s children, currently in the form of unimplanted frozen embryos. Dr. Mimi Lee and Steven Findley underwent in vitro fertilization when Dr. Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer, making pregnancy risky. She had planned to have a genetically-related child with the help of a surrogate mother. After three years, the couple divorced. Dr. Lee, now 46, would like to have her children. Her ex-husband disagrees.

The similar 1992 Davis v. Davis embryo case in Tennessee granted embryos “special status,” but nevertheless had them destroyed. Since that time, courts have tended to consider embryos as property rather than persons. But recent rulings in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Illinois have shown more sympathy towards women with cancer, who will not be able to have children biologically themselves. Dr. Mark Sauer, a reproductive endocrinologist, provides some clarity on the issue:

It is compelling and dramatic how these issues play out. These are embryos that will potentially live lives. It is not like you are bartering over the furniture in your house.


A decision in the case is likely within the next few weeks, and may set a new precedent.

News Article (LA Times)

New Journal Launch!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Journal Logo framed

The Center for Bioethics is pleased to announce the launch of a new, peer-reviewed academic journal: Bioethics in Faith and Practice.

The focus of the new journal is Health Care Ethics, but it also may include articles of a more theoretical nature. Though it will emphasize Judeo-Christian values, we will be open to a large variety of voices, including secular ones. The first issue is now available online, at:

Both academic and clinical scholars should consider submitting to the new journal. Submissions may include case study analysis or longer commentaries and reviews. Appropriate clinical ethics topics may also include reproductive ethics, end-of-life matters, stem cell research, abortion, genetic ethics, research ethics, and conscience rights for health professionals. We are open to more theoretical matters as well, such as nuances of ethical theory, meta-ethics, and metaphysics as it relates to human nature. The perspective may be from medicine, nursing, biology, pharmaceutical sciences, psychology, social work, chaplaincy, and biblical scholarship.

Articles submitted for consideration should be of interest to the educated professional, but not restricted to the specialist. An author need not be a full-time academic of a member of a college or university faculty. Submitted papers will be reviewed by the Editorial Advisory Board, made up of ten Cedarville University faculty, plus six from outside the institution.




Looking for Hope: Suicide Prevention

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Hold_my_handImage courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and is the most common cause of death after cancer and heart disease. The most recent statistics for suicide compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention show a yearly increase in the number of suicides every year since 2000.  In 2013, someone in the US died from suicide every 12.8 minutes.

Suicide is always tragic, and is also preventable.  It is estimated that over 90% of people who commit suicide were suffering from mental illness at the time of their death.  Depression is the mental illness most often correlated with suicide, though bipolar disorder and other personality disorders may also play a role.

Underdiagnosis of mental illness likely plays a key role in suicides, which means that health care professionals can help prevent this tragedy.  Treating persons holistically, recognizing the interdependence of physical and mental well-being, is of crucial importance.

As Christians, we recognize the impact that the Fall and the Curse have on all of creation.  Certainly the whole person is subject to disease, both physical and mental.  Genetic and epigenetic mutations, biochemical disorders, and anatomical dysfunctions will plague mankind until the Lord’s return.  If we wish to alleviate suffering, we need to wisely steward all of the tools at our disposal, including counseling, pharmaceuticals, and human interaction.

For too long, sufferers of mental illness have felt stigmatized, often not reaching out for needed treatments.  This needs to stop.  A holistic view of personhood can truly make a difference.


Planned Parenthood Issue is More than Politics

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015


Even pro-choice voices get it. Chris Sununu (R), an executive councilor in New Hampshire, had previously supported services provided by Planned Parenthood in their state. That is, until they crossed the line and broke the law. Due to the intense public scrutiny over recent videos that seem to show PP execs describing how they sell fetal body parts for research, Sununu is very troubled:

Sununu laments that Democrats in his state “seem to go out of their way to ignore” the urgent questions raised by the videos released by [the Center for Medical Progress]. Governor Maggie Hassan has refused to investigate New Hampshire’s Planned Parenthood clinics based on what she calls “a rumor.” “We do not launch criminal investigations in the state of New Hampshire because somebody edits a tape,” she said.Hassan declined to help expand women’s alternatives to Planned Parenthood. That decision “made no sense,” Sununu says. “It was beyond belief. How providing choices is ever a negative thing, I can’t imagine. She’s trying to justify the monopolistic position Planned Parenthood has put themselves in.”


Sununu not only supported the state’s successful effort to remove $639,000 worth of Planned Parenthood funding, but he actively sought to find alternative sources to provide certain much-needed women’s health services. He defends his change of opinion with a pragmatic argument:

The councilor does not view the debate over funding Planned Parenthood as a pro-choice versus pro-life issue — the issue is whether the law is being violated, he says. “Particularly on the Republican side, it’s not political, since our politicians don’t receive campaign donations from Planned Parenthood,” he says. “The governor’s misplaced passion for the organization indicates politics.” New Hampshire’s successful move to de-fund Planned Parenthood underlines the fact that, even if Congress succeeded in cutting off federal dollars, the states would need to act to fully untangle public money from the organization. Sununu hopes New Hampshire will be an example for other states: “Change can happen at the local level.”


Read more

The Plot Thickens: Newest PP Video is Revealing

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Month 7

The Center for Medical Progress has released its second video in a three-year investigative series into the actions of Planned Parenthood (PPFA) and the marketing of fetal body parts. Secretly recorded last February, two supposed research company purchasers talk with Dr. Mary Gatter, a senior PPFA official (CMP Video).

The conversation centers mostly around pricing, and how to modify the abortion technique to produce intact organs. This is very disturbing, and confirms that the first video (featuring Dr. Deborah Nucatolo) was no fluke. This apparently is “business as usual,” with the emphasis on business.

Why this is all so upsetting:

  • The description of second and third trimester abortions is graphic, and shows abortion for what it really is: legally sanctioned dismemberment of human beings.
  • The only issue for Dr. Gatter seems to be what kind of suction to utilize to better preserve intact organs. This is a medical conflict of interest: it’s not about women’s health, but about profiting from the sale of the body parts.
  • Through it all, Dr. Gatter haggles for the best price, even joking about buying a new Lamborghini (expensive sports car). She says, “Patients don’t care what we do, of course.” This just shows the cynical and callous true nature of PPFA (see my earlier blog about the “ugly underbelly” of abortion).

No, Planned Parenthood is not “pro-women,” as they claim. It is pro-business, and anti-life.

CMP Video

Center for Medical Progress

Video Reveals Ugly Underbelly of Abortion

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


By now you have probably seen the video (link), or excerpts from it. A hidden camera shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood senior director of medical services, sipping on wine and eating a salad while calmly discussing the removal of body parts from aborted fetuses in a way that maximizes their “value.” She blithely talks about obtaining “intact hearts,” lungs, “intact livers,” and even “lower extremities, that’s easy.” And all of this in a way that seems designed to reassure and impress the two research company “buyers” she’s having lunch with (actually two actors with a hidden video camera).

Pro-life advocates across the nation are understandably upset. It’s hard to count the number of groups that have expressed their outrage: National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, First Things, the National Review — I’m just getting started. In my state, the Ohio Attorney General has called for an investigation, along with AGs and governors throughout the country. I was interviewed for a piece in (article link).

In the midst of the shock and hype, we need to find some balance. Was Planned Parenthood really violating federal laws and selling body parts? Here are my reactions:

It’s cynical, crass, and callous, but it’s probably legal. Making donated human tissues available for research does not violate the law. Even the money discussed (“$30 to $100”) is not necessarily an issue, if that is just the cost for processing and / or shipping the specimens. On the other hand, Dr. Nucatola seems awfully interested in making her case to the supposed “buyers.” It may not actually be a business, but it sure looks like she was trying to make a “sale.”


I get really disturbed when she recommends that the procedure be done under ultrasound guidance, and suggests modifying the approach to better preserve the removed organs. This is a clear conflict of interest, where commercial concerns trump the care of the woman patient. Even pro-choice voices should condemn this afront to clinical ethics.

Then things take a turn for the worse, when the doctor actually suggests rotating the fetus away from a vertex (head-down) position, in order to better allow for dilation of the cervix so that the head can be delivered intact. This description comes perilously close to intact dilation and extraction, otherwise known as “partial-birth abortion,” now a felony for many years.



No matter how you look at it, the video provides an opportunity to see the procedure for what it really is: a brutal, degrading, horrific procedure that destroys a human life. This is the ugly underbelly of abortion.



Balancing Faith and Science at the End of Life

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015


(by guest blogger Sam Franklin)

My mother, luckily, died in the presence of six of her closest relatives — all of whom were born-again believers. Other patients aren’t as lucky.

Consider “Ms. Ellen,” who spent her last days surrounded only by medical professionals — none of whom affirmed her Christian faith:

Ms. Ellen felt the lack of sensitivity and respect for her faith, but she wanted the entire medical team to know that she knew she would not be living much longer. Why? Because hope for her at this critical moment was not rooted in anticipating a miraculous healing of her body, but in a need for spiritual peace and physical comfort as she approached the end of her life . . .

Unfortunately, Ms. Ellen would be robbed of this opportunity as she quietly lay in her bed, now questioning those more than 21,800 hours of hope-filled moments that she had tucked away over the many years of her life for a time such as this.


In my mother’s case, every decision she made reflected her beliefs. Unfortunately, Ms. Ellen’s beliefs influenced none of her medical team’s decisions. Nonetheless, even when patients tragically die alone, a Christian healthcare professional can help final decisions affirm deeply-held beliefs, regardless of their religious background.

Let’s take time to ask patients about their faith and how it impacts their last few days. We shouldn’t force our faith on them, but hopefully, we may have an opportunity to share the gospel. Together, patients and healthcare providers can agree upon appropriate treatment, and in doing so, we address an oft-neglected aspect of patient care: the soul.

NY Times Opinion Piece

Follow-Up: Down Syndrome Bill Moves Forward in the Ohio House

Monday, June 22nd, 2015


As we recently reported, the Center for Bioethics was active in supporting H.B. 135, the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to ban abortion for babies with Trisomy 23, or Down Syndrome. The Community and Family Advancement Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives has just passed this bill with bipartisan support, moving this to the House floor.

Women who receive a diagnosis of Down Syndrome in early pregnancy choose abortion at a high rate, up to 90%. It is a sad commentary on the health profession that many doctors recommend abortion for such individuals with mild physical and cognitive disabilities. But our culture should be more inclusive and welcoming. According to Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Stephanie Krider:

More and more, it seems that society is rejecting discrimination in favor of diversity, empathy, and understanding for the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our communities. It makes sense that we would apply that practice across the whole spectrum of life, to protect some of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, starting in the womb.


If the bill passes in the Ohio General Assembly, we would become the second state (after North Dakota) to ban such selective discrimination.

Please pray – this could be good news for all of us.

Life News Report

Protecting Babies with Down Syndrome

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
L to R: Dr. David Prentice, Edwin Vance (holding photos of son Justin who has Down syndrome), Stephanie Ranade Krider, Jackie Keough, Mary Kate Keough, and Dr. Dennis Sullivan

L to R: Dr. David Prentice, Edwin Vance (holding photos of son Justin who has Down syndrome), Stephanie Krider, Jackie Keough, Mary Kate Keough, and Dr. Dennis Sullivan

Last Tuesday evening, I presented testimony at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, representing the Center for Bioethics and Ohio Right to Life. I spoke before the Community and Family Advancement Committee in the Ohio House, in favor of H.B. 135, a statute to prohibit abortion solely because of a diagnosis on Down Syndrome. Here is an excerpt from my testimony:

It is highly relevant to our purposes today how we will protect the disadvantaged and vulnerable among us, and how we will prevent genetic discrimination among those who currently have no voice. Seven other states ban abortion for gender selection, and one other state bans abortion for genetic abnormalities. What we are proposing with this statute is rather simple: to protect unborn individuals with Down Syndrome from being killed simply because they have this condition. Anything else is discriminatory. Failure to protect these innocent unborn children is simply eugenics, and it is morally wrong.


Please communicate with your state legislators, to encourage them to support and pass H.B. 135, the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act (for my full testimony, click on the link below).

Sullivan HB 135 Testimony

Ohio Right to Life Press Release

Could understanding nature help us treat trisomy?

Monday, May 4th, 2015

21_trisomy_-_Down_syndrome Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla

What if we could actually treat the root cause of conditions like Down’s Syndrome, rather than simply ameliorating symptoms?  Although the life expectancy of Down’s Syndrome patients has increased dramatically in the past few decades, and is now approximately 60 years of age, patients continue to experience serious medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, hearing loss, and a susceptibility to Alzheimer’s Disease (National Down Syndrome Society).  Since all of these conditions correlate with the presence of an “extra” 21st chromosome, gene dosage is hypothesized be the root cause of these issues.  So, can we simply turn that extra chromosome off?

In human females with a normal chromosomal composition, somatic (body) cells contain two X-chromosomes.  Normally, in each cell, one X-chromosome is completely silenced.  Recently, scientists have discovered how long, non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) interact with proteins to cause inactivation of the entire X-chromosome.  It is hoped that understanding this mechanism will eventually lead to better treatments of autosomal trisomies, such as the most common, Down’s Syndrome, as well as trisomy 14 and trisomy 18, which are sometimes viable.  According to Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News:

This information soon may have clinical applications. The Xist lncRNA silences the X chromosome simply because it is located on the X chromosome. However, previous studies have demonstrated that this RNA and its silencing machinery can be used to inactivate other chromosomes, e.g., the third copy of chromosome 21 that is present in individuals with Down’s syndrome.


Click here for more information on this discovery.


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