Draft Social Statement on Genetics: Resource . Florida Bahamas Synod Resource Group Summer 2010. Resource for Further Discussion. Includes background ethical guidelines/ concerns, theological explorations, and scientific information
Florida Bahamas Synod Resource Group
Justin and Hannah are distraught about the choices they need to make. Their little boy, Jason, has been diagnosed with a type of severe immune deﬁciency that will dramatically shorten his life. The deﬁciency can now be treated through bone marrow transplant as a form of gene therapy, but this requires a matching donor and is expensive and risky. They have tried to ﬁd a bone marrow match without success. Justin and Hannah have wished for another child and realize that, if they conceive again, their second child could offer the surest means to ﬁt the needed match for Jason.
“We don’t know if we should use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)*. Would we select only embryos that are a perfect bone marrow match for Jason? What would happen to the embryos that didn’t match? Do we select the procedure even though we would need to come up with money that we don’t have? Having a regular pregnancy and then doing prenatal diagnosis would cost less. But we can’t do prenatal diagnosis until we are already pregnant and we would have to decide if we could actually stop a pregnancy that wasn’t a bone marrow match. We just don’t know if we should leave it all in God’s hands and accept that Jason is with us for only a short time.”
*Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): A procedure used to decrease the chance of a particular genetic condition for which the fetus is speciﬁcally at risk by testing one cell removed from early embryos conceived by in vitro fertilization and transferring to the mother’s uterus only those embryos determined not to have inherited the mutation in question.
Example from Genetics! Where Do We Stand as Christians?
As genetic screening increases, so will the number of families who have to make difficult decisions about whether to terminate a pregnancy.
1) Emphasis on respect of life
2) Promotion of the well being of the community of life
3) Emphasis on justice and wisdom
4) Promote common good through innovation (Foot note 23 bellow)
23 Throughout history, human activity has lead to novel and innovative contributions to the scope of the natural order. The existence of dogs illustrates this point; they exist only because of human efforts. Wolves and coyotes would exist in nature without the human species, but dogs would not.
SufficientSufficiency means that we assess economic activities in terms of how they provide "adequate access to income and other resources that enable people to meet their basic needs, including nutrition, personal development, and participation in community with dignity" (SSLA p. 10.4). This includes attention to justice and human dignity in all economic policy and practice (SSLA p. 9.4&5). Sufficiency means, as well, that we seek to meet the basic needs of all creation by stewarding arable land and changing patterns of acquisition and consumption (CC p. 7.3-5).
SustainableSustainability means that we support practices to protect and enhance the capacity of natural and social systems to survive and thrive together over the long term, including respect of environmental limits. Sustainability means, as well, “providing for an acceptable quality of life for present generations without compromising resources for future generations.” This entails the protection of species and the fostering of behavior consistent with long-term sustainability (CC p. 8.3).
"Livelihood" designates here the means of subsistence,
including the economic arrangements and infrastructures
necessary for supporting it (SSLA p. 7.3). As stewards of this gift
of livelihood, we are to support practices that use available
resources to generate jobs and the creation of capital for growth
required to meet basic needs so that lives may be lived
beneficially and productively (SSLA p. 8.4).
"For all" means that economic activities should be assessed in
terms of how they affect "all people," especially those living in
poverty (SSLA p. 4.3).
Stewardship means that all our efforts serve the best interests
of creation's integrity in imitation of God's care for us (CC p.
Justice for the relationships within creation means "honoring the integrity of
creation, and striving for fairness within the human family" (CC p. 6.2). It
entails honoring the principles of participation, solidarity, sufficiency, and
sustainability. Participation requires that all living things "are entitled to be
heard and to have their interests considered when decisions are made" (CC
p. 6.4) with a special hearing from those who work closest to the land and
living things (CC p. 6.5). The principle of participation entails, as well, that
“we are to participate actively in decisions that impact our lives” (SSLA p.
9.6). Solidarity requires that human beings stand together in
interdependence to act locally and globally on behalf of creation (CC p. 6.9).
(Suggested ideas for discussion)
Playing with nature
Will this tech be available to all or just the affluent?
The first is perhaps most commonly recognized: all societies on earth are ever more closely being interconnected. The decision whether to use genetically modified seed affects not only the contents of U.S. breakfast cereal but also what kind of seeds become available for African farmers. There are virtually no isolated choices or activities that affect only one section of the global village. Decisions, rather, are like the ripples spreading across a small pond—their effect is seen everywhere.
Many resource-poor countries, for instance, have critical needs that do not require genetic solutions. These include infrastructure, food distribution, clean water, housing and basic health care.18
Voices from within the Lutheran communion, from foreign leaders and from others around the world point out that genetic research and technology may therefore have a negative impact on the availability of international aid or research for addressing these critical needs.
Something to think about: Consider concerns in the following films
Molecular Medicine includes:
Who should have access?
Medical rationing necessary
Infant or adult stem cells?
Solidarity Page 28 Solidarity also bears on the contested issue of human embryonic stem cell research and presents a case in which there are competing claims following from the same principle.
Many in this society and this church believe that the practice of regenerative medicine (based upon stem cell research) could benefit millions of people whose lives are burdened, if not threatened, by a host of serious diseases. Others in this society and this church believe, however, that only those forms of stem cell research should be pursued that do not require the destruction of viable human embryos. They argue that embryos be regarded as the weakest and most vulnerable of the human community and that their existence is worthy of respect and protection.
Page 29 Solidarity In the meantime, it accepts the use of surplus frozen embryos that were created for infertility treatment but are no longer needed. Since they are unlikely to be implanted and will ultimately be discarded, it seems preferable that they be used in research that may be beneficial to millions of humans and future generations.
This church’s respect for the “value, worth, and dignity” of human embryonic life precludes the creation of embryos expressly for research purposes. Commercial development (“embryo farming”) is incompatible with this church’s understanding of the value of life. At the same time, this church cannot be indifferent to the suffering of patients who await the therapeutic potential of regenerative medicine. It welcomes scientific research aimed at finding alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells that do not involve the use of embryonic human life.
Respect is a directive grounded in the dignity and integrity of created life. For Lutheran Christians, this respect follows from God’s creative activity and God’s regard for all life as precious, from the amoeba to the person. Human beings cannot love as God does, but the minimal response to other members of the community of life is to recognize their givenness and integrity.
Page 21 Likewise, the reproductive cloning of human individuals is rejected. Currently, attempts to clone a human being represent unacceptable experimentation. Even if that obstacle were overcome, however, the decision to clone a complete genetic replica of a human being violates the principle of respect for the individual who is brought into existence. No individual should be brought into life for the sake of repeating another individual’s genotype.
This church acknowledges some tragic circumstances where reproductive cloning, if it were safe, may not be motivated by a selfish or narcissistic end. However, we stand with the faith claim that to be human is to be mortal and believe we should not seek to circumvent mortality through reproductive cloning. Should reproductive cloning progress, this church would honor the God-given dignity of cloned individuals and would welcome each to the baptismal font like any other child of God.
Something to think about: Consider concerns in the following films
Abuse by employers, health & life insurance companies
This church rejects the “technological imperative,” that is, it rejects the prevalent practice or belief that we are free to use any knowledge that becomes available to create any technological application if the market will support it. An economic approach that promotes the unfettered pursuit of self-interest carries little or no basic respect for the needs of participants in the community of life.
In regulating new products and processes, government regulators and policy makers have historically relied on three standard criteria:
human risk and safety,
immediate animal and environmental risk and safety, and
We applaud these criteria and urge their continued, consistent and reasonable application.
Sustainability page 26 The ELCA calls for the implementation of an additional criterion long-term, ecological, social and economic impact in assessment of relevant genetic processes and products. The implementation of this criterion would introduce novel features into the current regulatory process and could slow development. Its inclusion in models of risk assessment and regulation, therefore, must be judicious; its inclusion, however, is justified by two prominent concerns.
Sustainability page 26
First, the use of genetic knowledge, like all technological application, will have both unanticipated and unintended consequences and these will have long-term impact on the biosphere and future generations. Second, genetic knowledge and the applications it produces will have long-term social impact. The addition of long-term, ecological, social and economic impact assessment and regulatory processes would implement needed attention to these critical concerns.
As places of koinonia, congregations and other ministry sites today are called to live into an identity in which all suffer in common when one suffers and all rejoice when one rejoices (1 Corinthians 12:1–26; Romans 12:15; Philippians 2:1–4). Learning that there is a genetic source or a possible human intervention will bring relief and joy for some people. For others, learning that there is a genetic source or a failed human intervention will bring greater anguish and a sense of futility. Some individuals will be able to take advantage of genetic advances and others will not. Some will choose not to do so. As followers of Christ, congregations are called to compassion in each case.
The imperative to respect and promote the community of life with justice and wisdom does not provide a practical program of rules or answers for complex and challenging questions. As a framework for faith active in love seeking justice, it serves to guide thoughtful deliberation, creative choices, sound advocacy, wise practices, and just decisions over the long haul. At the same time it allows this church to identify general convictions that seem justified and prudent.
The ELCA calls upon individuals, agencies, organizations, corporations and governments to pursue goals and to set policies that will:
Use for minimum discussion