By L. Bellantoni
Lisa Bellantoni argues that modern bioethics divides into logically incommensurable positions: a cult of rights, which identifies the price of human existence with our autonomy, and a cult of existence, which identifies human worthy with the ownership of a soul, and thereby, of human dignity.
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Extra resources for The Triple Helix: The Soul of Bioethics
Only if human procreation is personalizing, if it brings into being new persons, substantively affected in and through their persons, can it bear any moral freight. That this process requires a dyadic, mutually constitutive relation denies explicitly what both cults affirm: that our moral worth resides in a self-subsistent, self-identical, atemporal property mysteriously haunting our bodies and personalities. The cult of life reduces the body and personality of any individual person to a metaphysical accident: it enjoins us to respect that person’s worth not as an individual, but as a bearer of human dignity.
Yet if we can neither affect nor be affected by persons in their personhood, what good is this status, morally? 2 What’s new with you? That question is vital because among the most heated debates among bioethicists of both cults are those involving genetic engineering, a venue wherein their competing ideals matter least. Whereas these technologies’ proponents envision a morally permissible and maybe even obligatory ameliorative project that offers to liberate future persons from some natural vagaries, opponents from both cults see in such projects a denaturing and a dehumanization of human persons.
Evidence for this proposition abounds in narratives describing the deaths of deceased loved ones. 3 He struggled with conveying the reality of his brother’s terminal condition to him, believing instead that his obligation as a physician was to sustain his brother’s hope for a longer life. Yet, he reports, that baseless hope ultimately sanctioned painful, debilitating, treatments that diminished the quality of his brother’s remaining life, and bound the two in an enduring grief clouded by Nuland’s regrets and second-guessing.