Law, Medicine, and Religion: Towards a Dialogue and a Partnership in Biomedical Technology and Decision Making
Author(s)Smith, George P., II
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AbstractFaith, religion, spirituality, and prayer have a current focused outreach and easy parlance in the market places and public squares of the nation. News stories and court cases abound with dramatic challenges to the placement of monuments to the Ten Commandments in public buildings and grounds, the use of God's name in school pledges of allegiance, the teaching of Darwinian or evolutionary science in public education, the role of faith and religion in health care healing, and even the value of affirmations of religious faith on the political hustings. The purpose of this article is to explore the conjunctive and disjunctive influences that religion has in one specific field of current sociopolitical debate; namely, biomedical technology and ethical decision making. More specifically, the role of religion as an equal or - as the case may prove to be - limited partner with law and medical science in assessing the dimensions and patterns of application of new biotechnologies. Central to this inquiry will be a consideration of the legitimacy of, in the first instance, evolutionary science and its acceptance in public education, for it is this science from which the whole study of genetics and eugenics arises and which in turn directs and validates the very framework for the new biomedicine. From this analysis it will be seen that, far from being antagonistic to law and medicine, religion and religious principles can stabilize the field of biomedicine and serve additionally as vectors in shaping both ethical and moral constructs for decision making. In turn, each of these three disciplines complements and strengthens what should be the ultimate goal of the state: to secure the happiness, spiritual tranquility, and well-being of its citizens. This purpose is, in turn, advanced and enhanced by safeguarding the genetic well-being and general health of its citizens. Working toward this goal will have the effect of minimizing human suffering and maximizing the social good that derives from the rational and humane actions taken to displace man's genetic weaknesses from the line of inheritance.