Public policy includes the action (or in some cases the inaction) of local, state, and national government as it relates to bioethical issues. Examples include regulations placed on medical facilities or medical professionals, conscience issues for healthcare professionals, restrictions placed on certain medical treatments or procedures, the legality of certain types of research (e.g., cloning, embryonic stem cell research, genetic interventions, animal-human hybrids, etc.), and government health insurance programs. Additional issues covered in this section include theories of public engagement; international governance and regulation; the legal, judicial, and regulatory dimensions of policy setting for medicine, science, and technology development and use; as well as analysis of societal trends regarding public sentiment.
People sometimes remark that churches are not very good at teaching and counseling their members concerning difficult bioethical issues. It is worth pondering why many faithful churches seem to fall short in this important area.
In times of pain, suffering, and loss of control, appeals to compassion and autonomy can make the “right to die” seem reasonable and attractive, and PAD seem forgivable—or even sanctioned. Despite the appeal of PAD, believers can be trusted to discern its wrongness when we make loving and impassioned appeals to historical Christian theology. Every believer can wield a sanctified moral reasoning that cuts carefully and humbly through the noise and appeal of popular notions of love, compassion, and autonomy.
In the 23 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I have watched its most celebrated ideals erode and crumble under a double standard. I had the honor of serving on the National Council on Disability when the ADA became law, and ideally, it was intended to guarantee the basic rights of Americans with disabilities. Many saw the ADA as a law which would help move society beyond the premise that one is “better off dead than disabled.” I am amazed, however, at how much people’s fears of disability have eroded the most basic of human rights, especially now that so many more people are surviving disabling conditions. And when society’s fundamental fear of disability provides the framework to legislate policy, the outcome can only result in a double standard.