Editorial - Spring-Winter 2020

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This combined 2020 edition of Dignitas includes five full length articles, along with a reflection piece regarding CBHD’s 2020 conference on COVID-19 by Bryan Just as well as a special COVID-19 timeline by Heather Zeiger. The indicated larger, full-year edition represents an effort to return publication of Dignitas to its regular quarterly cycle, setting up the journal to remain at the forefront of the ever-changing world of bioethical issues and cultural engagement. The works in this issue cover the span of human life—from birth to death, along with the preservation of life in between. Ethical issues surrounding reproduction, organ transplantation, and life extension will be addressed, along with an article exploring general bioethical principles.

Two pieces in this edition cover reproductive ethics. Ryan Fields writes on the matter of oral contraceptives and their moral implications for Christians. The winner of CBHD’s 2020 student paper competition, Fields provides an exhortative call for unity amongst “pro-lifers,” situating oral contraceptive decision making to the realm of individual conscience and Christian freedom. Fields helpfully maneuvers the world of pregnancy prevention through clarification of terminology and delineation of the actual action of various oral contraceptives, along with explanation of the main ethical positions regarding these drugs. From this core of understanding, the author is able to raise relevant doctrinal issues for consideration, and ultimately describe his own conclusion on the matter.

Moving past the point of fertilization, Christopher Reilly addresses the moral permissibility of frozen embryo adoption. Reilly argues that the adoption of an embryo is not only morally permissible but is, in fact, an example of radical redemption that exemplifies Christlikeness. Reilly does this specifically through the lens of moral theology: determination of what is “good” based on the revelation of Christ. While denouncing the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) for conception, he highlights how embryo adoption does not make one complicit in such an act, and indeed he argues that it mitigates some of the ethical issues created by IVF. He also demonstrates how embryo adoption is not prohibited by the Roman Catholic instructional document Dignitas Personae. Reilly concludes that the call to mercy outweighs any merely potential ethical roadblocks stemming from frozen embryo adoption.

Regarding the preservation of human life, Gregory Rutecki contends with the matter of Hepatitis-C virus (HCV)-positive organ donations. Assessing the dire need for available organ donors in the U.S., Rutecki states that the recently discovered “cure” for Hepatitis-C opens new doors of ethical consideration regarding transplantation of an HCV-positive organ. However, the American Society of Transplantation offers a cautionary “yellow light” on movement forward for such organ donations, establishing certain criteria that must be maintained. Rutecki argues that such criteria have not currently been met, as is evidenced by the inaccessibility of timely attainment of the anti-viral drug necessary to protect an organ recipient from contraction of the virus and the lack of transparency regarding the drugs experimental state when it comes to use in organ transplantation. Further addressing issues of informed consent and potential medical complications, the author ultimately warns against continuation of HCV-positive organ transplantation if the current leniency in this practice is not addressed.

Moving toward end-of-life issues, Bryan Just incisively deals with matters regarding radical life extension (RLE) and the variety of Christian responses to it. By first observing the nature of various possible objections to it, Just excellently gets to the root ethical issues undergirding RLE and explores whether such matters merely caution against its use or whether they warrant prohibition altogether. Just goes on to delineate Christian responses from key voices in the bioethical world, followed by larger, organizational replies. He concludes that there is no major consensus on the ethical acceptability of RLE in the Christian world, and highlights the tension that exists between the preservation of human life along with the acceptance of death as the means by which mankind may be rejoined to perfect fellowship with God.

In a piece addressing more general theological and bioethical issues, Robert Lawrence describes a progression of ethical development in 2 Peter, focusing on 2 Peter 1:3–10. Lawrence delineates the unique ethical perspective of the letter’s author along with its similarities to, and distinctions from, other ancient philosophers. While being similar in its teleological force, it is unique in its hierarchical progression, with one virtue necessarily linked to and building upon another. Thus, Lawrence states, the list is an exemplary application of virtue ethics. Further developing each of 2 Peter’s listed virtues, the author demonstrates how the foundation of this progression is an evidential faith (pistis) that must find its teleological end in self-sacrificial, unconditional love (agapē). Lawrence closes with application of 2 Peter’s ethical delineation on a real-life case under consideration in the world of bioethics.

Finally, the copy of this journal you hold in your hands marks the final printed issue of Dignitas. Starting with the first issue of 2021, Dignitas will become a fully open-access, online journal. Michael J. Sleasman, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioethics and Director of Bioethics Degree Programs here at Trinity International University, will be assuming the editorship of Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics. Thus, that journal now becomes a publication of our sibling, the Bioethics Department of Trinity Graduate School. This change provides an opportunity for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity to open up the important content of Dignitas to an even wider audience. CBHD members will continue to receive printed copies of Ethics & Medicine as well as printed copies of Special Reports examining controversial or emerging issues. Thank you for your faithful readership of and contributions to Dignitas. We look forward to seeing you online at https://cbhd.org/Resources/Dignitas.