Increased attention is being given in medicine to the ways in which women’s bodies are different and react differently than men’s (e.g., female metabolism of drugs, responses to therapies, and differing indicators for heart disease). Yet despite this recognition, disparities in women’s health continue. Furthermore, women and girls are more vulnerable throughout their lifespan to medical discrimination, commodification, and exploitation. In addition to general issues of women’s health, resources on this topic give attention to the intersection of bioethics and violence against girls and women through practices such as sex selective testing and abortion, trafficking, and female genital mutilation; the burdens of child marriage; and maternal and perinatal risks.
In Spring 2022, I wrote an article about the sudden onset of uncontrollable tics in teens who had watched TikTok videos of people with Tourette’s syndrome. My article looked at why The Atlantic’s “The Twitching Generation” was one of the most popular posts on bioethics.com. One year later, Azeen Ghorayshi reports in The New York Times that the TikTok tics have largely disappeared. Now doctors are trying to understand why some teens were susceptible to tics in the first place.
At bioethics.com, I curate and post articles from the media that deal with bioethics issues. A typical post at bioethics.com is a title, link, and short blurb from an article in the mainstream media, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters, or the Associated Press. Over the past year, one bioethics.com post received more views in a single day than any other post, and it won by a large margin: “The Twitching Generation” by Helen Lewis at The Atlantic (See post here). I posted “The Twitching Generation” on Monday February 28, 2022. On Saturday alone it received 2,512 views, and as of April 2022, it had 5,338 views. Those numbers are just for the bioethics.com post which serves as a thoroughfare to the actual article. The topic is apparently of interest to our bioethics readers, so let’s look at what we can learn from Helen Lewis’s article about teens and technology.
The desire to have a child of one’s own is a compelling force for many women. This desire drives many of the technological advances in reproductive medicine of which uterine transplantation is a prime example. Its recent development highlights the quagmire of ethical issues arising from technological advancement. When perfected, this procedure would appear to be a promising achievement, providing women who would have had no possibility of reproducing with the hope of having a child of their own. But are there other ethical implications to consider, particularly in the context of church life and practices?
Whatever the case, we have many Rachels in our congregations—women who are “weeping for (their) children because they are not” or “are no more” (Matthew 2:18 quoting Jeremiah 31:15). These women, and men too, find difficulty in joining in the joy of this day. They may be inconspicuously absent because it hurts too much to be reminded of empty wombs, empty hearts, and empty hands.
The questions regarding the sanctity of human life are complex with developments like this. No longer direct questions of who lives and who dies, but questions like “What does it mean to be human?” Where are the boundaries between the human and the non-human? Where is the line between correcting things that are broken and enhancing abilities and even creating new capabilities?