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Biomedical Ethics (Essay Sample)

<p>Project description TITLE OF ESSAY: PHILOSOPHY AND THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN LIFE A. INTRODUCTION (brief) 1. Video &lsquo;The Island&rsquo; &ndash; explain core theme 2. State very briefly current debate over the dignity of human life a. Foreground examples: abortion, euthanasia, handicapped, embryonic stem-cell b. Background: the &ldquo;scientific&rdquo; Eugenics movement B. PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF ETHICS 1. Philosophical Theories without a Universal Rational Ethics: a. Skepticism: explain (David Hume is an early modern example) b. Relativism: explain (Greek sophists are classical relativists) c. Nihilism: explain (Friedrich Nietzsche is modern foundational figure) d. Voluntarism: explain two types (divine command and legal positivism) 2. Modern Philosophical Theories with a Universal Ethics: C. MODERN BACKGROUND: explain the following: 1. How modern philosophical theories begin with the Renaissance appropriation via Lucretius&rsquo; book De Rerum Natura of Epicurus&rsquo; atomistic-mechanistic cosmology, which became the philosophical foundation of the modern scientific paradigm. 2. How that leads to the &ldquo;modern subject-object&rdquo; split, which is initially articulated by René Descartes (body as material machine, soul as spiritual substance &amp; only externally attached) 3. UTILITARIANISM: direct use of atomistic-mechanistic cosmology for ethics, though tries to be magnanimous &amp; humanistic; its criteria for distinguishing good from evil is a calculus of pleasure &amp; pain; based on the objective consequences of the action; relation to dignity of human life? 4.. RATIONALISM: begins with Descartes&rsquo; dualism &amp; his epistemological turn to subjectivity; more advanced in Immanuel Kant; criterion is logical consistency in regard to autonomy of the human person made into universal law; relation to dignity of human life? 5. NATURAL LAW: rooted in Aristotle, Roman Stoics, &amp; Thomas Aquinas; criterion for distinguishing good from evil is the nature and purpose of objective reality, that is the objective nature of the action &ndash; according to nature or not -- of the action itself ; relation to dignity of human life? C. PERSONAL REFLECTION ON ALL OF THE ABOVE Three sources required.</p> source..

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Human life has always been held as the most important thing in the world history. Although different professions engage in different kind of activities, all of them are always perceived as methods in which human life can be improved. Ranging from medicine, engineering, poetry, sports and even education, the aim is always the same. However, different philosophers would tend to argue that not every practice leads to an improved human life. Using abortion and sterilization as examples, doctors might argue that they are necessary to save the life of the mother (in case of abortion) and come up with only the healthy and upright thinking (in case of sterilization). This paper is going to discuss and analyse the dignity of human life in relation the different concepts, views and ideas proposed by some philosophers and scientists.
The Island Video
Looking at the video ‘The Island’, significant science fiction themes are clearly echoed in today's culture of medical ethics, class conflict and organ transplantation. Corporate ethics and prison populations are also reflected in the video. The main theme in the video is corporate abuse of human beings. Starred by Ewan McGregor, the video slowly builds up the theme and displays how the wealthy class engages in immoral activities in the hope that, they might be turned into immortals. By not fearing to destroy their vital body organs by engaging in drug abuse, excessive drinking, smoking and eating junk foodstuffs, these people show how wealth can be used to manipulate the good values and morality in humanity. The Island is an organization in the contemporary corporate world that makes its clients believe that it produces entirely new body organs in the laboratory yet this is not the case. It instead clones the clients and grows exact human beings whose body parts will be used in case of transplantations.
The video is a true reflection of what is taking place in the contemporary world. The wealthy people and organizations are abusing corporate ethics in order to fulfil their desires. According to Kateb (2011), some doctors, including the highly revered Harry Sharp believed that social failure was a medical problem. This was in support of the scientific Eugenics movement sought to do away with some vices and immoral acts among human beings. Poverty, alcoholism, prostitution and criminal behaviour were the core vices that they sought to eliminate. Others included schizophrenia, rebelliousness and weak mindedness.
Heated debates and arguments have however emerged concerning some of these scientific practices. Such practices as abortion, euthanasia, handicapped, embryonic stem-cell and sterilization have attracted several debates which Kateb (2011) describes as the expansion of the war-front between science and religion. The Eugenic Movement believes that such abnormalities like handicap and schizophrenia are supposed to be eliminated, not through treatment but through sterilisations. Just like abortion, the church is against the science of embryonic cells, terming it as immoral. A document written by American clerics stated that "It now seems undeniable that once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point," (American Catholic Organization, 2013). According to this statement, the church, not just in America but the whole world argues against embryonic stem-cell, saying that it is unethical and immoral to use human beings for experiments. The doctors on the hand support it, saying that it is "a very important piece of scientific invention" that will revolunise the world and help in doing away with some cases like handicap.
The Scientific Eugenic Movement believes that, by sterilizing handicapped men, cases of both mental and physical handicap will be eliminated completely. According to the American Catholic Organization Journal (2013), both the Catholic and Protestant churches opposes this strongly, arguing that handicapped people have the right to give birth because they were created by God in that condition. Euthanasia on the other hand is strongly opposed not just by the church alone but many governments in the world. According to Moffit, Marshall and smith (2006), only few countries in the world allows that act of voluntary taking away of life. Although some of them tend to argue that they always do that to accommodate the deaths of death sentenced prisoners, it is still a hotly debated issue.
1.       Philosophical Theories without a Universal Rational Ethics:
 a. Skepticism
The following are the commonly known philosophical theories without a Universal Rational Ethics: skepticism, relativism, nihilism and voluntarism. Skepticism refers to the Western theoretical institution that claims that humanity can never ascertain any type of definite information. According to Swidler (1994), its origin can be traced in Greece just at the start of the 4th Century. Skepticism is grounded on the fact that, the knowledge used by human beings is only perhaps true in most cases or not true at all. This school of thought argues against the ability of knowing the truth. Philosophical skeptics engage themselves in questioning every single aspect about something. One such philosopher is David Hume. Hume confronts common knowledge, arguing that it can neither be distinguished through thinking (Kolakowski, 1994). Induction lay on the assumption that nature is uniform and that the future will resemble the past. Hume does not deny the existence of knowledge but his major claim is that, truth and being are not objects of knowledge.
   b.      Relativism
The term sophist refers to teachers of writing and speech who voyaged through Greece in the 5th century. Sophists were the initial philosophers who tried to define what relativism is.According to Kolakowski (1994), relativism holds the position that it is only individuals who can ascertain what is true and valid to them. Relativism theorizes that truth is different for different people. It disputes the existence of universal truth, arguing that different cultures can come up with what is true and valid to them. Kateb (2011) describes relativism as an aspect that views everything as being true and valid. But it only depends and varies according to different people in different places and time
c.      Nihilism
Nihilism is another theory with no Universal Rational Ethics. The term itself means nothing, as derived from Latin. This school of thought discards the possibility of total ethical or moral codes. The most commonly known Nihilist is Friedrich Nietzsche and according to him, all values have no grounded base. He views everything as abstract, and that nothing exists at all. According to Swidler (1994), nihilists view ethics as not existing at all, and that they were just invented by human beings to justify their acts.. In his book ‘Will to Power’ Nietzsche asserts that all the beliefs stuck in human beings are not true because the world does not exist in the first place. He simply disputes the existence of life at all.
d.      Voluntarism
Ethical voluntarism refers to the assertion that values are derived from desires. According to Swidler (1994), something being right or wrong does not depend on its consequences but rather the will to do it. Being able to come up with concrete decisions is what can be defined as the will. The two types of voluntarism are divine commands and the legal positivism. Divine command dictates the rightness of human actions in God’s virtue Kateb (2011) cites an example, whereby all human beings should love each other because The Holy Bible, in the book of Exodus, dictates that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Legal positivism on the other hand views the existence of law as depending on social norms and facts and not necessarily on divine virtues. All in all, this school of thought claims that the wrong and the right can be easily identified and differentiated.
 2.      Modern Philosophical Theories with a Universal Ethics
One of the core modern philosophical theories with universal ethics is atomistic-mechanistic cosmology or epistemology. This cosmological theory is what has given rise to such activities as the development of the modern world. According to Kolakowski (1994) such things as technology, globalization and communication were derived from this theory. Atomism also talks about the existence of truth, but only in parts and not wholesome. Scientists such as Galileo thought that, truth and validity could only be arrived at after thorough experiments and measurements. They did not believe in metaphysic. Rene Descartes asserts that the whole can only be comprehended by first of all learning it in bits. Descartes believes that all knowledge is derived from the mind, and that the only thing that cannot be questioned is our existence. According to Kateb (2011), Descartes’ thinking was in direct conflict with Hume’s, who argued that there was no existence at all, even that of life. Although both Descartes and Galileo were people of different fields, their thoughts were based on the same thing: that epistemology is the only base upon which human beings think
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