Toward a new paradigm for bioethics : ecological and theological contributions
In this thesis it is argued that current conceptions of bioethics are inadequate in the light of today's global ecological and societal circumstances. An examination of the dominant contemporary model of bioethics as it is known and practiced in North America shows it to be entrenched and entrapped in a medical context and an ethos of liberal individualism. The model does not have the scope or flexibility to address critical issues of environmental destruction and its social causes and consequences, both of which impact the integrity of the biosphere and human health. Thus, bioethics fails to fulfill its purported role with respect to life, health, and the service of medicine and those receiving care within the medical system. The claim is made that a new paradigm for bioethics is needed, one modeled on ecological principles. It is argued moreover that theology can be a valuable contributor to the development of an ecological bioethics. Traditional contributions of theology to bioethics are not, however, adequate for the task of reformulating the discipline to meet today's urgencies and needs. What is needed is a retrieval of the rich Christian tradition of creation theology and the insights of contemporary eco-theology. A detailed account of these theological perspectives is provided together with an exploration of recent ecclesial statements and documents which articulate them in a vital manner and in terms of a call for Christian moral commitment. Theology is thus shown to have a potentially powerful and imaginative gift, to be joined with others, in the evolution of bioethics. Finally, this thesis presents a model for the expression and practical development of an ecological bioethics - a bioethics for life and healing - for today and for our future.