Part of the book: Bioethics in the 21st Century
Anatomy has undergone radical changes over its history, and even now its appearance varies between audiences. Within academia, it has frequently been seen as the bastion of medical teaching, even as a handmaid of surgery. To the general public over recent years, it is represented by the enormously popular public exhibitions of plastinated cadavers and body parts. Increasingly within medical teaching, it has acquired a far more humanistic face, epitomized by ceremonies at the start and end of dissection to connect the dead body with the once living individual and his/her families. Modern anatomy has also developed a strong research ethos. These movements can be traced in the many editions of Gray’s Anatomy, from 1858 to the present day. However, the humanistic side of anatomy reminds us that anatomy is not merely a science, since its ethical dimensions are legion as it has transformed from a dubiously moral and barely legal activity to one that now aims to manifest the highest of ethical standards. Nevertheless, it continues to have challenging dimensions, such as its ongoing dependence upon the use of unclaimed bodies in many societies. These challenges are reminders that anatomy does not remain stationary.
Part of the book: Human Anatomy
The advent of in vitro fertilization (IVF) into clinical practice highlighted to ethicists and theologians, ways in which scientists and clinicians are interfering with the development of human embryos in the laboratory. This is because an increasing amount of research is being directed onto embryos, frequently involving their destruction. These procedures range from IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to gene editing. Some religious groups are implacably opposed to all such developments on the ground that the human embryo is to be protected from the ‘moment of conception’. Widespread opposition to abortion and fetal destruction has been translated into opposition to the destruction of embryos. By viewing embryos as having a value commensurate with that of postnatal moral persons, opposition to all recent biomedical developments becomes inevitable. The rationale for this stance in the writings of certain Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars is outlined, as are implications for theology’s relationship with science, the church community and the public square. Does this mean that these groups are unable to contribute to ethical debate in each of these areas? The reasoning behind embryo protection stances will be critiqued, and the importance of finding common ground by examining core values and accepting the centrality of dialog will be stressed.
Part of the book: Reflections on Bioethics