In the Service of Human Life
Tree on a hill on a starry night
Applied Bioethics in stylized text
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In the Service of Human Life

Disordered

The human person is a miracle in the created order. From the first moment of life, as a singular cell with a single copy of its own, unique, unrepeatable code of DNA, a person stands apart from all other creatures. A fusion of generations of genetic mutations, every person represents a truly new creation.

Sadly, the process of human development is fraught with complications. Many lives end in the earliest days of gestation. Others don’t make it to term. Too many children die in their first days of life, a result of complications from birth or because of structural defects. It’s no easy task to repeat the code of DNA countless times, to divide cells and grow organs, build systems, and then get them all working together.

Part of what it means to be human is to deal with deficiencies. The human body is complex and there are myriad of genetic bugs passed from generation to generation. Each one of us, in our uniqueness, struggle with dysfunctions and deficiencies. Every system and organ in our body present opportunities for things to go wrong. Some are genetic, others environmental, and still others a result of our own choices.

Despite the disorders and dysfunctions, we remain human. No matter our age, whether in our first moments after conception, or celebrating our 101st birthday, we retain our humanity. We retain our unique status in the world, a one time occurrence, having never been before, and never to be repeated again.

Some dysfunctions are minor, and others are life altering. From diabetes to renal disease, congenital heart defects to bipolar disorder, industrial accidents to injuries on the battlefield; our circumstances shape our lives. Some disorders require institutionalization, others require structural changes to our bodies, and most require some lifestyle adjustments. Nothing diminishes or reduces our humanity. Not the loss of a limb in a tragic car accident or a required daily dose of an antipsychotic medication.

Ethical norms, whether codified in law or not, demand a liberal application of respect to the human person. Mentally ill or political prisoner, newly conceived or terminally ill, intellectually disabled or addicted to opioids, every patient, every person, has a life worthy of respect and protection.

Our dysfunctions and disorders do not define us, nor do they dictate the level of care and attention that we deserve. Acute illness or chronic condition, we all have lives worthy of living because of who we are. Our life is a gift to our family, our community, and our world. And there is no condition, no change of status, no action that can ever diminish that gift.