Secular bioethics threatens human dignity, says US bioethicist

Medicine detached from a transcendent dimension is increasingly a threat to human dignity, argues a bioethicist and theologian at Fordham University. In his new book Losing Our Dignity: How Secularized Medicine is Undermining Fundamental Human Equality, Charles Camosy predicts that the lives of millions of people with dementia will be at risk. Here are a few excerpts from an interview with the Catholic news website Crux.

The central thesis of the book is that as medicine became secularized it rejected the idea that fundamental human equality comes from sharing a common human nature which reflects the image and likeness of God — and replaced it with a vision of the person which insists on their being rational, self-aware, autonomous, productive, etc. in order to be morally and legally valuable…

If we stay on the current path there will likely be euthanasia of human beings with later-stage dementia in the near future. In some ways, the neglect this population already experiences isn’t much better than euthanasia — isolated from the rest of us and kept ‘docile’ with various drugs in what are essentially warehouses where they wait to die alone.

But there’s no principled reason why our secularized medical culture would stop with this population. After all, lots of disabled human beings aren’t rational, self-aware, autonomous, and productive in the same way able-bodied human beings are. Why would we think that we won’t eventually apply this horrific moral and legal vision to them? …

The first part of the short-term strategy I lay out is to sound the alarm and respectfully-but-confidentially insist on our theological vision of the human person as one that is necessary to defend the fundamental equality of the most vulnerable human beings around. We need to have equal seats at the table, refusing to be embarrassed of our theological beliefs. Indeed, as the book makes clear, it is now absolutely necessary to proclaim our theological beliefs if we are going to preserve the concept of fundamental human equality.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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