With reference to the topic of abortion , examine and comment on the controversies, which arise from an issue or issues within medical ethics and how far these conflict with religious/moral principles

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With reference to the topic you have investigated, examine and comment on the controversies, which arise from an issue or issues within medical ethics and how far these conflict with religious/moral principles

The medical topic I will be discussing is abortion. This is defined as the ‘deliberate termination of a pregnancy.’ Abortion splits the public into two opinions, pro-life and pro-choice. In the religious context the sanctity of life is paramount. But this presents a conflict with the Right to Self Determination. As Judith Jarvis Thomson’s analogies of the ‘famous violinist’ and the ‘burglar’ would suggest, the foetus is regarded as part of the woman’s body. Therefore abortion is considered acceptable because women should have absolute autonomy over their bodies. However, the Sanctity of Life would counter argue that all life is sacred, so a pregnant woman would not have the right to an abortion because it entails the killing of an innocent human life.

The Catholic Church heavily pursues a pro-life outlook and believes that the Sanctity of Life is a moral absolute. The principle of the sanctity of life is based on the teaching of Genesis 2:7 ‘Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.’ It operates on the premise that all human life, irrespective of its quality, has intrinsic value because it is a gift from God. Only God has the jurisdiction over life. This sets a limit to human authority and autonomy because moral absolutes are put before sovereignty. In contrast, self-determination is an individual’s freedom to live as one chooses without consulting others. ‘If abortion rights are denied, then a constraint is imposed on women’s freedom to act in a way that is of great importance to them, both for its own sake and for the sake of their achievement of equality;’ Here Judith Jarvis Thomson is saying the dismissal of abortion rights impacts a woman’s rights to equality. The sanctity of life and the right to self-determination conflict with religious or moral principles because the sanctity of life declares that the fetuses’ rights outweigh the rights of the mother, whereas the right to self-determination states that the mother has complete control over her body.

Sanctity of life can be related to deontology. Deontology is based on moral law, which all humans have. Some humans hold the belief that God gave us these morals while others suggest they come naturally to humans. If the foetus were considered alive, then from a deontological perspective abortion would be wrong. This is because Deontology judges the morality of an action based on the actions in accordance to the rules, and according to the rules murder is immoral. Kant said, ‘’ The Divine Command theory also has support for moral absolutes. The Divine Command theory is a meta-ethical (ethics that intend to understand the nature of ethical properties) theory, which proposes that an actions ability to be morally good depends on whether it is commanded by God. Due to the deontological (certain rules that we must follow depending on the theory) nature of Divine Command, it is understood that it focuses with items of absolute, intrinsic and universal values. The contrast of this is consequentialism and is based on the idea that the ends justify the means (An actions morality is determined by its consequences) because it is consequential it deals with relative, particular and intrinsic values. Utilitarianism, a consequentialist theory, has no support for moral absolutes because it is based on the principle of utility, the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This focuses around relativism, the view that moral principles should be adapted to circumstances and that good cannot be defined by always doing the same thing. Utilitarianism puts forward the idea that abortion is acceptable in certain circumstances, whereas Deontology and the Divine Command Theory would state that abortion is not acceptable in any situation unless the foetus was not considered a person.

The Roman Catholic Church’s position on this issue argues that from the moment of conception the embryo is a person and according to the sanctity of life the foetus’ life is intrinsically valuable. Peter Vardy and Paul Grosch summarise the debate with this quote ‘Whether the foetus is a person or potential person.’ They refer to two possible factors for establishing personhood, relational factors or biological indicators. However, relational factors can be too subjective, this makes them poor determinants of personhood. Even biological indicators have difficultly determining when a foetus gains personhood. It matters whether the foetus inside the womb is a person or a potential person because the Sanctity of Life will only apply if the foetus is a person, if so abortion will be classed as the killing of an innocent life. This is because the Sanctity of Life can only be applied to people. The Catholic Church believes that the Sanctity of Life is a moral absolute; so abortion cannot be justified despite the severity of the situation, only when the mother’s life is in danger does the Catholic Church permit abortion. This is supported by biblical evidence from Jeremiah ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…’

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The United Nations Convention has a similar view that every child from birth until eighteen has a right to life, however this view depends on whether the foetus is or isn’t a person. But, if the foetus is not considered to be a person then abortion can keep within the Sanctity of Life because a life is not being terminated. This conflicts with religious or moral principles because different people have different views when personhood begins. The Catholic Church believe that personhood begins at conception but pro choice supporters believe that personhood begins sometime after twenty-four weeks, justifying abortion depends ...

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