Case Study Reflection: Fetal Abnormality


Introduction

For the first time in 2003, scientists sequenced the human genome in a highly funded Human Genome Project that determined the total number of genes making up a human being (Chial, 2008). This discovery opened an era of rapid medical advances than ever imagined. One controversial medical practice advanced by the outcomes of this project is genetic testing that determines an individual’s probability of developing a certain genetic disorder. Combined with amniocentesis, parents can know whether their unborn babies are likely to develop certain hereditary conditions and if they should consider an abortion (Meilaender, 2013). From a pro-life perspective, children are a gift from God with or without fetal abnormalities and each child is precious and perfect regardless if they have a physical deformity or any condition that might affect the quality of life as they develop.

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The Christian view of the nature of human persons is that every individual is created in the image of God as revealed in Genesis 1:26-27. Like God, human persons are spirit beings but with a body that remains on Earth when one dies. In 1 Cor. 15:42-53, the dead will be resurrected to new glorified bodies. While there are varying opinions among different Christians regarding the biblical meaning of the “image of God”, this fundamental attribute is what differentiates human beings from other creatures and endows them with the intrinsic value and dignity. Although the image of God is present in all human beings, illnesses, disability, and sin may hamper its full expression. Different worldviews apply a range of moral theories based on their thoughts about the nature of human persons. The only moral theory that is compatible with the Christian worldview is based on human properties. Christians believe that what a human being needs to have full moral value or status is to be human. The moral theory of human properties is related to the intrinsic human value and dignity. It is only being human that one can have moral status or values, and that other creatures have no full moral status.

In the case “Fetal Abnormality” Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson use different moral theories to determine the moral status of the fetus diagnosed with a rare condition in which it may fail to develop any arms and a 25% chance of Down syndrome. After Dr. Wilson informs Jessica that abortion is scientifically and medically safe alternative, she is torn between proceeding with an abortion and her strong conviction that all life is sacred. She uses the human-ness theory that the fetus she is carrying is of a human race and therefore has a moral status. In this regard, the fetus is fully human and therefore, it should be given the rights to survive since it possesses a genetic code. While her view on this has significant implications on medical advances of prolonging life and abortion, the Christian view supports that abortion is ending the life of a fully human being.

On the other hand, Dr. Wilson is of the idea that abortion is the rightful decision to take so that the born baby will not suffer congenital problems while developing. He applies the theory of rationality or cognition and sentience theory to make his decision. The fetus has no means to reason or express free will and thus has no moral status. According to Dr. Wilson, fetuses, embryos, and unconscious people do not feel pain and therefore have no moral status. However, Dr. Wilson leaves the decision to Jessica after advising her on the safety of abortion based on scientific and medical records. Marco on his part is free to support the theories of rationality and human-ness to support whichever decision Jessica takes. Maria strongly applies the theory of human-ness and life force theory that supports the survival of fetuses since they have full moral status. She tells Jessica that all should be left to God and that she should take heart and proceed with carrying the pregnancy. In the case, Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson tend to apply a common theory of human-ness in determining the fate of the fetus.

Each of the theories determine or influence each of the participants’ recommendations for action, but the theory of human-ness features in all the participants’ decisions in the case. This theory influences each of their recommendations about the survival of the fetus. Jessica, a strong believer that life is sacred is informed that the theory of human-ness defines that all humans, regardless of their disabilities have full moral rights. She therefore thinks otherwise, but the suffering future of her born baby puts her in confusion. Dr. Wilson also considers the human-ness theory, but as a professional doctor, he has to leave the decision for Jessica to choose what is right for her. Marco, the husband understands the divinity of life and he is ready to support the wife in whichever direction she intends to take. The theory of human-ness determine her decision to let the fetus survive regardless of the suffering and directs that God knows how the baby will survive in the future.

I agree with the theory of human-ness or species theory. This theory protects the lives of vulnerable individuals who do not have the power to protect themselves from harm. Fetuses, embryos, and individuals with cognitive anomalies or damaged brains are defenseless about what other people decide about what should happen in their lives. This theory perfectly fits the Christian worldview, although scientists have blamed the same model for derailing scientific progress especially studies that use stem cells and unused embryos derived from in-vitro fertilization. I agree that medical science has advanced our ways of understanding complex diseases such as hydrocephaly, anacephalia, and Down syndrome, but going against the will of God is not an option. All human persons have moral values and status and this includes the unborn babies and embryos that are used in scientific experiments.



Conclusion

The debate on abortion has been raging with different views from pro-life activists condemning the practice while proponents citing reasons ranging from women rights and saving lives. While many people believe that all humans are valuable, and should be treated with dignity and respect, countless abortions are conducted in many clinics around the world without the full understanding on the Christian worldview. The Christian worldview maintains that all human persons have moral values and dignity, but the question that often emerges is whether such a worldview offers adequate explanation to Christian beliefs. In this paper, the Christian worldview on human dignity and value has been addressed using the case of fetal abnormality. Jessica who is carrying a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome and unknown disorder where the baby will not develop limbs is faced with a dilemma. Since the baby to be born is in the image of God, it should be allowed to live than terminating the pregnancy.

References

1. Chial, H. (2008). DNA sequencing technologies key to the Human Genome Project. Nature Education, 1(1):219

2. Meilaender, G. (2013). Bioethics: a primer for Christians (3rd Ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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