Understanding the Three-Parent Baby

While most (99.9%) of the human genome (DNA) is found in chromosomes in the cell nucleus, a small percentage (0.1%) of our DNA is found in the mitochondria—small bean-shaped structures which float around within the cell. Among other things, mitochondria use oxygen to convert the energy from food into a form cells can use. Mutations in this mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which can cause metabolic and degenerative diseases, and forms of cancer, are the driving force behind three-parent babies. Read

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Assisted Suicide in D.C.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. To celebrate, the D.C. Council is considering a measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide with a bill which surrealistically claims “actions taken in accordance with this act do not constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide under the law.” We are reminded of Humpty Dumpty who tells Alice that when he uses a word “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Read

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Now Popular in Venezuela? Sterilization Day

It was recently reported that the Miranda clinic in Caracas is now sterilizing 40 women a week during its weekly “sterilization day” and has a waiting list of 500 women. This is the solution proposed for a country which exhausted its supply of birth control in July 2015 and is now out of most medicines. While avoiding pregnancy in difficult times can be well intentioned, good intentions do not justify immoral means. Read

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End of Life Decision Making

You check into a hospital for a routine procedure. They ask you if you have a living will. You say no. They slide a form in front of you with simplistic questions such as: Do you want to be resuscitated if you go into cardiac arrest? Do you want mechanical ventilation if you are unable to breath? Do you want nutrients and fluids supplied to your body if you’re unconscious? Your gut tells you the questions are superficial. What should you do? Read

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Partly-Human Chimeras: Fearfully And Wonderfully Made?

Historically, the distinction between “man” and all other creatures has been relatively unchallenged, being established in religious texts as well as borne out in science and experience. Though cultural changes and legal perspectives are making this less obvious than heretofore, the truth remains intact—our own self-image is attacked when humanity is approached without due dignity. Read

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Ethics On Gene Editing

The International Summit on Human Gene Editing took place last week in Washington, D.C. Gene editing is the modification or elimination of certain sequences within strands of DNA. There are a number of tools capable of editing genes; some so simple that “amateurs” are able to undertake gene editing experiments. While gene editing holds the promise of excising mutated genes which cause illness, it is not without its risks and ethical dilemmas. Read

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Little Sisters, Big Rights And The Supreme Court

On November 6, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case of The Little Sisters of the Poor, the fourth legal challenge to Obamacare heard by the Court since Obamacare was passed. Why is this case significant? The Court will finally take up a key constitutional question that it did not touch in the Hobby Lobby case: Does the government have a “compelling interest” in ensuring that American employers pay full coverage for contraception and abortion drugs for their employees? Read

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Abortion, The Mother’s Life, And The Principle of Double Effect

Imagine a pregnant woman diagnosed with uterine cancer and the only treatment alternative is a hysterectomy which would likely save her life, but surely end in the death of the child. Absent any action, both are expected to die. In such an instance, is the loss of the child permissible? The answer is simple, but the logic is worth understanding well. Read

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NIH Debates Allowing Human-Animal Chimeras

Chimeras are formed by combining genetically-distinct cells, in this case human cells and animal cells. In 2005, the U.S. National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine recommended limits on such research, but 10 years later, they have reopened the debate. Where objections are rightfully raised, language is twisted and manipulated to disguise the truth of what is taking place, making an ethical analysis of a complex situation even more complex. Read

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Hypnosis: Healing Art or Dangerous Dehumanization?

Hypnosis, familiar to many from movies and comedy acts, has been used by psychotherapists to treat a variety of disorders. Recent news reports, however, question whether a school principals’ use of hypnosis may have contributed to the deaths of three students. In light of those things which make us fully human, among them being conscious of self and able to determine freely our own actions, is it ever licit or even neutral to accede control to another? Read

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