In the Service of Human Life
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Applied Bioethics in stylized text
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In the Service of Human Life

The Right to Another Person

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Americans reject the notion that a person has a right to another person. This is most clearly illustrated in our morally correct judgement against slavery. Ironically, despite this rejection, there are many other areas of human activity that we accept as normal that rely exclusively on that right.

The breakdown occurs when we allow emotion to supplant logic. Particular scenarios tug at the heartstrings, and popular opinion suggests that we should make an exception, just this once. The problem with exceptions is that they tend to expand over time.

The best way to analyze any question is to peel away at the patina until you reach the core issue. Regardless of the empathy required in a medical setting, logic cannot be abandoned without dire consequences.

Take for instance, in vitro fertilization. The conception and creation of new human life, outside of the natural order of male and female sexual relations, is commonly accepted. When couples are unable to procreate, the medical community is quick to offers them inorganic methods such as surrogacy or in vitro fertilization.

In vitro fertilization makes big promises, but it does so in an ethical vacuum. The success rate is below 50% and multiple fertilized embryos perish in the process. Its very action claims that two adults have an absolute right to a child regardless of the consequences, an assertion that is profoundly wrong.

Instead, we should be focused on developing technologies that correct the underlying cause of the infertility. Many women, for example, are able to achieve and maintain a pregnancy though progesterone support. This supplementation of bio identical hormone corrects the disfunction of her reproductive system. In this way, we support the couple’s desire to form a new human life without depriving that new life of its inherent rights and dignity. Further ethical research may help us to correct even more dysfunctions of both the male and female reproductive systems, thus allowing the formation of more families.

We’re entering a new era of biomedical technology. In vitro fertilization is just one of these technologies, and many more are promised. We must have the courage to challenge their basic assertions and spend the time and resources to find ethical solutions to our biomedical problems. Without a doubt, the questions that we face will be multifaceted. Full ethical analysis will be required that the findings may often be opaque. It’s because of these challenges that we must now reaffirm our basic ethical and human values. There can be no ownership of any person by another, period.