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Bioethics is the application of ethics to human biology; specifically, bioethics is applied ethics to human life from womb to tomb. That is, bioethics is the application of ethics between life’s two bookends: the beginning of life (BOL) and the end of life (EOL). Bioethics becomes front and center as we think about some reproductive technologies. Consider this scenario: imagine a patient couple produces a defective fertilized egg (a mitochondrial disorder is the blame; note: mitochondria are found in every cell of the human body except red blood cells and converts the energy of food molecules which powers most cell functions). No fear of a diseased mitochondria because modern reproductive science to the rescue! This same couple seeks a ‘donor’ couple to donate their healthy fertilized egg for reasons that will be revealed soon.

Rescue Operation: Doctors remove the patient couple’s healthy DNA nucleus from their defective fertilized egg and discard its defective mitochondria; and doctors remove the donor couple’s healthy DNA nucleus from their healthy fertilized egg and discard it; thus leaving the healthy mitochondria. The healthy DNA nucleus from the defective fertilized egg is then transferred to the healthy mitochondria (compliments of the donor mother).  Do you see the ethical dilemma here? A healthy human embryo is created using the patient couple’s healthy DNA nucleus plus the donor mother’s healthy mitochondria. But there are several ‘costs.’ The first cost: the donor couple’s fertilized egg is used for ‘spare parts.’ The donor couple’s healthy DNA nucleus is discarded and their healthy mitochondria is preserved and becomes the home of the healthy DNA nucleus from the patient couple. The second cost: the final embryo will have three parents as he (or she) will have the genetic material from the patient couple plus the donor mother since the healthy mitochondria is her contribution.

Do you see the ethical rub here? Based on Romans 12:1-2, Biblical ethics is discerning the will of God and doing that which is: a) good and honorable [before God]; b) that which is pleasing/acceptable [to God] and; 3) that which is perfect; or those actions that contributes to well-being or human flourishing. In other words, Christians who practice Biblical ethics must seek the common good of all persons regardless where the person is along the BOL and EOL continuum; especially the voiceless and vulnerable human embryo. The common good is not achieved with this procedure. Consider these few reasons. First, this procedure destroys one life to create a new life. Second, the glory of a human being in its early developmental stage ((the donor couple’s embryo) is reduced to a commodity or ‘spare parts.’ Three, just because we have the technical know-how, Christian ethics urges us to practice restraint and not cross this line. And four, what do we know about the donor couple – that is, were they exploited? Did they go into this deal knowing how their embryo would be used? And five, can you imagine the questions asked by this future kid? Kid: Who are my mommy and daddy? Answer: well, you have two mommies and one daddy. Kid: Huh? Kid: Why didn’t you trust God with my life? Answer: (silence).

 

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