Modern Ethical Dilemmas: The experts' views

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Prof Jonathan Glover

Director of Centre for Medical Law and Ethics at King's

College London. Author of `Causing Death and Saving Lives'

Euthanasia

We accept that there is a right to commit suicide. If someone wants to die but cannot, there is a case for moral justification in assisting them. But there are serious problems and any new legislation would need strong safeguards

IVF

There are difficult issues over who should have access to IVF, but I believe a lesbian couple is perfectly justified in claiming assisted reproduction. The family is open ended and it is wrong to restrict what people do in the interests of preserving a particular model of it

Animal

organs for

human

transplant

Much more fuss is made of this issue than it deserves. The standard reactions are that of the scientist who wants to do everything that we know can be done and that of the public - the `yuk' factor. Underneath these there is a mixture of worries about safety and unfocused ethical concerns. In this case, there aren't any real ethical concerns, only safety concerns

Human

cloning

The worries over cloning are unrelated to what will actually happen - which is very far from a Brave New World human production line. Human cloning is very useful for creating spare organs. The idea of anyone, aside from the odd eccentric, vain enough to try cloning human beings makes anything else very far-fetched

Use of

tissue from aborted

foetus

There are very real benefits for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease sufferers. It is essential, however, that this is kept separate from issues about who will be aborted. Foetuses should not be aborted just so that people can be treated

Sperm Theft

The idea of property is overused in medical ethics and the idea of owning your sperm is bizarre. But there are two adults involved in the decision to conceive, and there are men's interests at issue. Any alleged deceit would be violating his interests in a morally objectionable way

Canon John Polkinghorne

Chair of the Science, Medicine and Technology Committee of the C of E's Board for Social Responsibility

Euthanasia

The Church's position is against active euthanasia, but not against the use of strong drugs in palliative care which may have the effect of reducing lifespan. We don't believe people should be kept alive artificially indefinitely. There comes a time when we have to die naturally, but we should not have that time accelerated, nor prolonged in extravagant ways

IVF

The Church is happy about it, given the safeguards that are already in place

Animal

organs for

human

transplant

The main problems are those of safety, and these have not been resolved

Human

cloning

Personally, I would not be in favour of human reproductive cloning, but there are other therapeutic uses of the technique, as with the creation of compatible tissues

Use of

tissue from aborted

foetus

The present code of practice is a good one. There must be a complete ethical barrier and separation between the decisions and actions involved in making the tissue available and those involved in the usage of it

Sperm Theft

Such bizarre cases could only occur in a country so unremittingly litigious as the United States

Prof John Harris

Chair of the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy at

Manchester University

Euthanasia

It follows from respect for other people that we respect their decisions concerning their own life. In any case it seems crazy to be concerned with those who do want to die when we live in a country which sanctions the wide use of non-voluntary euthanasia

IVF

This should not be an ethical issue except insofar as there was a period of worry over a danger to the child - which has now been refuted. Assisted reproduction should not be rationed. Any entitlement should be independent of race, gender or sexual orientation

Animal

organs for

human

transplant

There is nothing wrong with it in principle, but we have to be concerned over the safety issue. There is nothing wrong, that is, at least from the perspective of a bacon-eating society. It cannot conceivably be worse to have a pig's heart than a pig's rasher inside you

Human

cloning

There is nothing wrong in principle with human cloning, but whether it is a good thing is a matter for judgement in individual cases. As for the cloning of organs, tens of thousands die every year for want of donor organs. 50,000 people are waiting for organs in the US alone

Use of

tissue from aborted

foetus

The products of abortion should be made useful. It must be better to do something good than nothing good. What is more problematic, however, is to deliberately grow foetuses for experimentation

Sperm Theft

I can foresee a counteraction for unrecompensed sexual services. If a couple had a prior contract which stated the conditions under which sex was consented to, that's one thing, but it would be a reasonable assumption that in exchange for whatever benefits men get from sex they surrender control of their sperm

Dr Michael Wilks

Chairman of the British

Medical Association's

Medical Ethics Committee

Euthanasia

There are important ethical distinctions between assisted suicide, the withholding of treatment and the withdrawal of treatment. The BMA opposes the active termination of life and foresees no change in the law. However, though our position is the same on assisted suicide, it is an issue we are investigating further, as are authorities in other countries, such as Switzerland and France

IVF

We support research and treatment designed to help treat genuine infertility, but close regulation is essential to prevent inappropriate treatment. There are very serious ethical concerns in helping conception in women of inappropriate age, especially with the issue of sex selection that the technology makes possible. As for providing IVF for single-sex families the BMA has no official view. My personal opinion is that doctors should look at such cases with extreme caution before providing treatment for `infertility'

Animal

organs for

human

transplant

The BMA is content to see how the new regulations work, but we do not actively support any extension to the practice at present. Safety concerns take precedence over ethics here and will do so for the foreseeable future. However, the demand for transplant organs will not go away

Human

cloning

The BMA is resolutely opposed to the cloning of human beings, but we wish to keep the door widely open to research into the cloning of tissue. One should not stop such work when it is potentially of enormous value

Use of

tissue from aborted

foetus

This is fully regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and we would not wish to see any change in the law at the moment. The balance is right

Sperm Theft

One of the primary principles of ethics is autonomy, and that extends to what is done with any tissue you might donate, or unwillingly donate

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