Hello everyone! This is a blog post on the readings for Thursday’s class, on the topic ‘Inventing Bioethics’. Bioethics is the study of ethical issues that emerge from advances in biology and medicine. Examples of topics would be organ donation and transplantation, genetic research, and so on. Our first reading on this topic is three chapters from Swasti Bhattacharya’s book Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology, and the second reading is Bob Simpson’s Impossible Gifts: Bodies, Buddhism and Bioethics in Contemporary Sri Lanka.
In her book, Swasti Bhattacharya explores the topic of modern reproductive technology and its relationship with Hinduism. In chapter two, there is a story in Hindu literature called Mahabharata that suggests the idea of the utilization of postmortem sperm. When Bhadra’s husband, the king dies, a hidden voice of the king speaks to her that she may have his baby through his ascetic powers, and this story by Kunti reminds Pandu that there are more options than having a sexual relation with other men to have children. Indeed, these ancient narratives preserve certain attitudes toward conception and child birth, serving as a guidance for the present and future.
I have never learned about Hinduism before, so I found it interesting that Hinduism welcomes pluralism and alternative views and does not have a monolithic view on a topic, because I used to think that most religions have a clear set of ideas and opinions on different topics.
Bob Simpson’s article is about the relationship of religion and culture with the donation of human tissue, such as blood, organs, sperm or ova. Specifically, it explores the significance of the donation of gametes and embryos in the Sri Lankan Buddhist context. He also suggests that there is a ‘complex interplay between ideas of intention, biogenetic substance, and the nature of kinship’.
The idea of ‘the gift of life’ is often associated with the questions around the donation of organs. Simpson mentions that some believe that the gift is no longer a gift when it is launched into the flow of social life. However, I believe that ‘the gift of life’, or one’s body organs can be taken and given as gifts when the donor’s motive is selfless. There are many cases in religions where people make donations in the form of wealth. The donation of body organs is also a self-sacrifice, just in a different form. Indeed, in Buddhist folk literature, the ’eyes, head, flesh, blood’ appear as the four main objects that appear as donations. So, should the donation of the sperm and eggs be viewed differently from the donation of other body parts?