Roman Catholic social bioethics critiques secular bioethics: Fetal tissue research and vulnerable populations
This dissertation examines the social and bioethical effects of fetal tissue research and donation/transplantation on invisible vulnerable populations, especially poor African American women, teens and the fetus in utero by critiquing secular bioethics from the perspective of Roman Catholic social bioethics. Roman Catholic social bioethics, a term that I have coined and advanced in this dissertation involves the infusion of the principles of Catholic social teaching such as human dignity, respect for life, the common good, a preferential option for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized, and social solidarity, into Roman Catholic bioethics. It also includes a Catholic theory of rights and economic justice and can be used to address racism, classism, and sexism. In 1988, secular bioethicist John A. Robertson stated that the one and a half million abortions performed annually in the United States appear adequate to supply fetal tissue for research and therapy for chronic and debilitating conditions such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, different types of cancers, among others. Currently, electively induced abortions are about 1.29 million annually; Robertson's claim and the inevitably high percentage of involvement by poor African American women and teens in this process remain unchanged. African American women and teens comprise about 12% of the United States populations and reportedly procure abortions at the rate of about 34.6%. Due to their highly disproportionate abortion rate, Robertson's contention also implicated poor Black women, teens, and the fetus in utero in this type of research. Attorney Khiara M. Bridges January 2002 article in Columbia Law Review entitled, "On the Commodification of the Black Female Body: The Critical Implications of the Alienability of Fetal Tissue," along with Robertson's assertion sparked my initial interest in the topic of this dissertation. In this dissertation, I argue that Roman Catholic social bioethics can be employed to critique the limitations of secular bioethics, specifically its treatment of the social effects of secular bioethics and fetal tissue research on vulnerable populations. I aver that Catholic bioethics ought to move its analysis in this area beyond simply affirming that it is strictly against electively induced abortion. A socially-informed Catholic bioethics can be employed to help Catholic theologians and ethicists to better engage in theological reflection, both within the Church and in the public square, around the issue of fetal tissue research premised on electively induced abortions and the social effects on vulnerable populations. Chapter One of this dissertation gives a brief overview of the problem of fetal tissue research, donation, and transplantation and the social effects on poor African American women and teens, who have a highly disproportionate rate of electively induced abortions and are implicated in the fetal tissue research, donation, and transplantation process. Because no one normative ethical theory captures the essence of secular bioethics, Chapter Two provides a standard textbook account of first level theories such as consequentialism/utilitarianism or other teleological approaches, Kantian deontology, egalitarianism and social contract theory, and libertarianism or the entitlement response. Derived from these normative ethical theories are the four mid-level principles of bioethics: respect for persons, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Chapter Three gives a brief overview of the extensive history and influence of Roman Catholic bioethics, traces the theological and moral discourse that grounds Roman Catholic approaches to bioethical questions, and focuses on the values and importance of integrating Catholic social thought into Catholic bioethics. Chapter Four discusses how the work of philosopher and social theorist Iris Marion Young, and philosopher, theologian, and moral realist Bernard Lonergan can be employed to critique the social effects of the liberal paradigm of justice that undergirds secular bioethical theories, which contributes to or fails to challenge the domination and oppression of invisible vulnerable populations, such as poor African American women and teens in the fetal tissue research, donation, and transplantation process. Chapter Five offers four illustrative topics for Roman Catholic social bioethical consideration.
Daniels-Sykes, Shawnee M, "Roman Catholic social bioethics critiques secular bioethics: Fetal tissue research and vulnerable populations" (2007). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3263815.