Conscience claims, metaphysics, and avoiding an LGBT eugenic

Abram Brummet

Abstract

Novel assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are poised to present our society with strange new ethical questions, such as whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples should be allowed to produce children biologically related to both parents, or whether trans-women who want to experience childbirth should be allowed to receive uterine transplants. Clinicians opposed to offering such technologies to LGBT couples on moral grounds are likely to seek legal shelter through the conscience clauses enshrined in U.S. law. This paper begins by briefly discussing some novel ART on the horizon and noting that it is unclear whether current conscience clauses will permit fertility clinics to deny such services to LGBT individuals. A compromise approach to conscience is any view that sees the value of respecting conscience claims within limits. I describe and critique the constraints proposed in the recent work of Wicclair, NeJaime and Siegel as ultimately begging the question. My purpose is to strengthen their arguments by suggesting that in the controversial situations that elicit claims of conscience, bioethicists should engage with the metaphysical claims in play. I argue that conscience claims against LGBT individuals ought to be constrained because the underlying metaphysic—that God has decreed the LGBT lifestyle to be sinful—is highly implausible from the perspective of a naturalized metaphysic, which ought to be the lens through which we evaluate conscience claims.


Brummett A. Conscience claims, metaphysics, and avoiding an LGBT eugenic. Bioethics. 2018;00:1–9.

NI peer’s bill could excuse medical staff from taking part in abortions

Belfast Newsletter

A Northern Ireland-based peer is championing a bill which aims to protect the freedom of conscience for medical professionals.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill is designed to grant protection to healthcare workers – including doctors, midwives, nurses, and pharmacists – who object on grounds of conscience to being asked to participate in end-of-life treatment.

In practice, this could see medics opting out of any involvement in abortion services.

Professionals could be excused from taking part in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, and could also refuse to participate in any aspect of IVF treatment. . . [Full text]

 

Should lesbian couples have access to mitochondrial replacement therapy?

BioEdge

Michael Cook

“Three parent babies!!!!” was a shock-horror headline across the world when the UK was debating mitochondrial replacement therapy a couple of years ago. This is a technique to avoid passing on mitochondrial diseases from mother to child. There are different methods, but they involve combining the nuclear DNA of the mother’s egg with healthy mitochondrial DNA from another woman and fertilisation with sperm.

The government’s fertility regulator, the HFEA, explained that this was meant to “to avoid passing on serious genetic diseases to future generations”. Under existing legislation, MRT can only be used for this purpose.

Much of the opposition to the technique in a very heated debate was the unconventional matter of a child sharing two mothers, or at least, sharing the genes of two women. Many found this profoundly unnatural.

However, there is a group of women who might welcome this – lesbian couples. For them, it could be a way of creating a child with a shared genetic heritage.

Or so argue Giulia Cavaliere and César Palacios-González, of , King’s College London, in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Their reasoning is quite interesting. (It is spelled out a bit more simply in a blog post.)

First of all, against the headlines about “cures” for desperately ill children, they insist (as did many opponents of MTR) that no MRTs can be considered therapeutic as they do not cure children/embryos affected by mtDNA diseases, but they are rather a means to create children that are not affected by mtDNA diseases.

Second, they ask, if “cures” are not the reason for the existing legislation, what is? Their answer might have escaped the MPs who votes for it, but it fits:

the rationale to offer MRTs is to allow women at risk of transmitting mtDNA disease to have healthy children that are genetically related to them. The rationale, in other words, is to expand these women’s reproductive freedom …

Third, if reproductive freedom (and not the health of a child) is the most fundamental reason, then all women deserve to take advantage of MTR, not just the mothers of sick children. Lesbian couples are equally needy and deserving.

Providing access to MRTs to women at risk of transmitting a mtDNA disease and not to lesbian couples is in our view contrary to one of the tenets of morality, which demands to treat like cases alike. Denying access to MRTs to lesbian couples is morally unjustifiable in as much as it curtails the enjoyment of certain freedoms to a certain group without good reason, whilst allowing others to enjoy the very same freedoms.

Some bioethicists would call this the slippery slope in action. Others would respond that it is merely extending the inherent logic of the legislation. In any case, it certainly is an unexpected interpretation of the legislation.

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Accessed 2018-03-28

 

British conscience protection bill: second reading set for 26 January, 2018

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill [HL] 2017-19, introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, will be debated during second reading in the British House of Lords on 26 January, 2018.  The proposal is a procedure-specific bill limited to activities associated with abortion, artificial reproduction and withdrawing life sustaining treatment.

Conscience protection bill: first reading in the House of Lords

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill [HL] 2017-19, introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, was read for the first time in the British House of Lords.  First reading is a formality that begins the legislative process.  The proposal is a procedure-specific bill limited to activities associated with abortion, artificial reproduction and withdrawing life sustaining treatment.

Ontario conscience rights case now in judges’ hands

Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – Three days and nearly two dozen lawyers arguing the broad principles and technical details of constitutional law before a three-judge has panel left Christian Medical and Dental Society executive director Deacon Larry Worthen “cautiously optimistic.”

“The court certainly heard our arguments,” Worthen told The Catholic Register on June 15 outside the courtroom as lawyers shook hands and dispersed in the hallways of historic Osgoode Hall.

The trial before the Ontario Court of Justice was likely the first leg in a battle all the combatants expect will end in at the Supreme Court of Canada. Five dissenting Christian doctors who all object to abortion, chemical birth control, petri-dish human fertilization and assisted suicide asked the court to strike down a 2015 College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario rule that forces them to provide an “effective referral” for services they reject on the basis of their religious faith or conscience. . . [Full text]

 

Embryo Experiments Reveal Earliest Human Development, But Stir Ethical Debate

Shots.  Health News from NPR

Rob Stein

Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo.

“As you can see, all my lab is glass — just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas,” says Brivanlou, perhaps only half joking.

Brivanlou knows that some of his research makes some people uncomfortable. That’s one reason he has agreed to give me a look at what’s going on.

His lab and one other discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That has triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage. . . . [Full text]

 

Rovigo hires 2 non-objector biologists

Call put out after colleagues at assisted conception unit object

Ansa

(ANSA) – Rovigo, February 24 – Medical authorities in the Veneto city of Rovigo were obliged to issue out a selection competition for two biologists who are not conscientious objectors to work in a hospital assisted conception unit, it emerged on Friday. The call was made after two colleagues already working in the unit at Trecenta hospital refused to offer their services on grounds of conscience . . . [Full text]

 

Australian women complain of ‘gender disappointment’

BioEdge

Michael Cook*

“Gender disappointment” is not a recognised medical condition. But many women in Australia – where gender selection is illegal — attribute their depression to it. Speaking to Australia’s ABC network, a woman using the pseudonym Kate described it as “a guilt-ridden, debilitating depression”. She has two boys and she desperately wants a daughter.. . .
Full Text

Alabama House Bill 491 (2015)

Health Care Rights of Conscience Act

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT

Relating to health care, to allow health care providers to decline to perform any health care service that violates their conscience and provide remedies for persons who exercise that right and suffer consequences as a result. [Full text]