Abortion – Rasika Tangutoori (Unit 8)

This week’s readings center on the abortion debate in the United States that began in the mid 1900s and is still of large concern today. Contested Lives: An Abortion Debate in the American Community by Faye Ginsburg is an ethnography that analyzes the conflict of abortion by utilizing Fargo, North Dakota as a microcosm of a larger American society. The second reading is a chapter excerpt from Hadley Arkes’s First Things: An Inquiry Into the First Principles of Morals and Justice and it explores the ethics behind the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 and its implications on society. Finally, the last reading, which was published earliest, is Judith Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” which explores the philosophy behind the right to life movement and argues against it. The readings this week encompass the moral reasoning and consequences of the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate in American society throughout the 1970s-80s.

From the onset, Ginsburg states her identity and any biases that might affect her work. She states, “I was concerned, initially, that being a young, unmarried, Jewish, and urban visitor from New York City might pose serious barriers to communication with Fargo residents (5).” She was extremely aware that she was about to enter a conservative and homogenous small city in the Midwest that prides itself for having the “highest rate of church attendance of any standard metropolitan area (4).” It was interesting that Ginsburg found her New Yorker identity the hardest identity to overcome when talking to Fargo residents. I believe this to be a testament to the divide in ideologies across the country and how reactions toward abortion differed even after the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. Thus, I appreciated that Ginsburg started off her ethnography with a couple chapters devoted to the history of abortion debate in the U.S., before delving into her findings in Fargo starting in Chapter 4. Unlike most ethnographic studies, she spends time acknowledging that there is a larger context of conflict that is occurring at a different pace outside of this small city.

Hence, I would like to discuss Thomson’s and Arkes’s works before analyzing Ginsburg’s conclusions because both works were published before Contested Lives and set the larger framework in which Ginsburg conducted her ethnography. Judith Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” defends the right of choice for a pregnant woman to control her own body. This moral philosophy paper was published in 1971 and spurred a lot of discussion and critiques from both sides of the abortion debate pre-Roe vs. Wade. Thomson operates under the assumption that “most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception (47).” She calls attention to the issue that opponents of abortion do not “draw the line” from which a fetus is person to where abortion starts being impermissible.

Thomson uses the thought experiment of the unconscious violinist to explain her viewpoint. She sets a scenario of a famous violinist with a fatal kidney ailment who can only be cured by you and so the Society if Music Lovers kidnaps you. The next day, the director of the hospital informs you that “we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you (48),” but to unplug yourself from the violinist now will kill him. Thomson questions “is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation (48)?” She then mentions the time frame and pushes the reader to determine if the decision would change depending on if you had to be plugged in for one hour (“be a good Samaritan”), nine months (equivalent to pregnancy), or nine years (a much longer time span)?

Thomson uses this thought experiment to walk through several scenarios from the extremist view of never aborting a child even to save a mother’s life to whether or not a mother has a special responsibility for the fetus from conception. At first glance, I found Thomson’s work to be very persuasive. The analogies used throughout the paper and moral reasoning resonated with me and I even found myself nodding my head as I read. I found myself proclaiming, “of course a woman should be able to save her own life” or “it is not her fault she was raped!” Nonetheless, after contemplation, I realized I felt prey to Thomson’s rhetoric strategy of simple analogies to explain the complex issue at hand. She successfully empathized with my identity as a female who hopes to have a child one day to get her point across.

Thus, it is important to put emotions aside and note several criticisms that should be addressed from either side of the abortion debate. First off, Thomson’s argument is solely based on the fetal right to life assumption. This assumption in itself only represents a portion of the larger controversy. Additionally, the violinist analogy obviously isn’t perfect and Thomson tries to remedy this throughout her reasoning. However, nothing can be changed about the fact that the violinist is a stranger to you, unlike a fetus inside of you, or that you were kidnapped in the scenario, restricting the abortion argument to extreme cases such as rape or imminent death for the mother.

  • Did you find Thomson’s argument compelling?
  • Do you believe that Thomson’s use of analogies was an effective method of communication? If yes, do you think the violinist analogy is representative of getting am abortion? Can any analogy be representative of that decision?
  • What do you think should be the role of a third-party in the mother’s decision to abort her child?

In the chapter titled, “The Question of Abortion and the Discipline of Moral Reasoning,” Arkes explores the interaction between morals and the law post-Roe vs. Wade decision made by Justice Blackmun. Arkes states, “Within the space of five lines, Justice Blackmun managed to incorporate three or four fallacies, not the least of which was the assumption that the presence of disagreement (or the absence of “consensus”) indicates the absence of truth (360).” The assumption referenced is that the judge’s decision was the answer to the dispute over when life begins. Arkes spends much of the chapter explaining that the judicial decision did not solve the dispute but rather added to the fuel because it brought to light even more ethical debates.

Arkes stresses the need for justification when making any moral decision. Arkes analyzes Blackmun’s suggestion that the “fetus becomes ‘viable’ somewhere between the 24th and 28th weeks, and he indicated that the state would have a stronger “’logical and biological justification’ to act at this point (376).” The next line is Blackmun’s clarification that “this justification would never be sufficiently compelling in any case to override the interest of the mother having her baby (376).” This judicial stance highlighted the importance of justification and also that the abortion debate by no means would end with Roe vs. Wade.

  • Is it possible to create laws without taking morality into account? Is it justified to separate morals and laws?
  • How does the need for justification change your viewpoint on the abortion debate from a mother’s, the fetal, and the physician’s perspectives?
  • Do you agree with the Ann Landers argument presented by Arkes for a mother to have an abortion?

Finally, I’d like to return to Ginsburg’s work now that the other two readings for the week have set the national background under which Ginsburg was conducting her anthropological study. The abortion controversy that began once the abortion clinic open in Fargo in 1981 is a social drama. Ginsburg states it is a “sequence of phased conflicts typical of “social dramas”: breach, crisis, redress, regression to crisis, and eventually stabilization either through schism or reintegration (121).” There were many waves of strongholds on the pro-choice and pro-life sides throughout the 1980s.

In what she refers to as “procreation stories”, Ginsburg sought out life narratives from both sides of the argument. She found that pro-choice women found inequalities to be rooted in gender discrimination and choose economic and political remedies to solve the issue at hand. For pro-life women, “opposition to abortion, like other moral reform campaigns, is a gesture against what they see as the final triumph of self interest, a principle that represents both men and the market (216).” Thus, I found these overall findings to be interesting as they both point to abortion as an inherent feminism argument. All women interviewed thought that the underlying issue was with the definition of female gender identity and the placement of this identity in society.

It is important note that Ginsburg relays that there isn’t any large gap of socioeconomic class or other prominent identity that separates women on either side of the argument in Fargo. I think this is a remarkable statement because it actually highlights the intrinsic similarities between women on either side of the argument who are all trying to advance feminist values. It seems that it is the ideologies that are in opposition, not necessarily the women themselves.

Ginsburg’s goal in conducting her study was to “understand how this grass roots conflict shaped and was shaped by activists’ experiences of self, gender, family, community, and culture in a specific setting (6).” She was able to portray this inter-sectionality well, but concluded that the issue boiled down to a women’s place in society. She places a lot of significance on the role of nurturance in determining philosophical questions of either side of the abortion argument.

  • After reading Ginsburg’s ethnography do you think that pro-life supporters are entirely different from their opponents, the pro-choice supporters?
  • Ginsburg sheds a negative light on national media with ABC’s portrayal of the conflict in Fargo. An account is presented from a leader of the LIFE Coalition who is “disgusted and disappointed” because ABC “paid women money to interview anonymously and tell how their needs had not been met when working with the pro life groups.” Do you think the role of media has been positive or negative in the abortion debate today?
  • What are your thoughts on Ginsburg’s final conclusion that any type of activist controversy “suggests a dynamic relationship between the construction of self and social action in (American) society (220)?”

Midterm Assignment (Ayman Elmasri)

The community of Sasquatch, Connecticut, is an increasingly diverse population, and as such, has a diverse set of needs. Though the town has predominant Irish population, Sasquatch has notable Jewish communities, mixed white and black communities, as well as influxes of Lebanese Shia and Japanese immigrants. Due to large distance between the town and a major hospital, major decisions must be made on a number of controversial topics. My ethical judgements will largely be made on the legal and normative lines, with an attempt to respect and please people from various backgrounds.
Before we begin, one must ask the question: what is the nature of the Catholic-affiliated hospital’s shift to become non-denominational? The background information of whether this move was motivated by diversity or as a nominal tactic is imperative to understand what effects this report’s suggestions may have. I will, however, proceed under the assumption that the shift was more than a titular change.
The American hospital system exists largely in the private sector with various government regulatory agencies and legislature who oversee rules and protocols. It is under that umbrella that many of the implicit suggestions made in the prompt of this paper raise legal eyebrows—is it within the law for hospitals to refuse to provide particular treatments or procedures? A second presumption that must be made is that both scenarios of each question are legal. I believe that once the argument becomes about the law, a new (and entirely different) conversation has begun.
The nearby hospital subsidizes care for under-insured patients, an assistance that can be seen in many hospitals across the United States. There is a growing issue of growing medical costs that result from the assistance of the under-insured—a burden that falls to a great extent on the deductibles of the lower middle class. The assistance given by the hospital close to Sasquatch has also been implicitly called into question.
A third presumption is that these fragmented populations will behave or believe similarly to those we have read about in class. It is entirely conjectural and reductionist to pigeonhole a group of people as similar to their macrocosmic religion, an identity which they may or may not hold as very salient.
With these initial conditions, the principal debate is that of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and prenatal testing, a controversial topic that varies by culture, which must be taken into account given the heterogeneous population of Sasquatch. First, let’s take into account the faith and tradition of the Irish Catholic population. According to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae, we know that in vitro fertilization (IVF) and prenatal testing which would lead to termination of the fetus are not permissible. We must also recognize that this is the religious view of the Catholic Church, the majority religion of the Sasquatchian community and the religion of the hospital’s donors. Therefore, the power of this situation likely falls into the hands of the Catholics, akin to the axiom “money talks.” It would be important to know how evangelical this Irish population is—the advocation and maintenance of their religion may be an importantly held value to them, which would highly influence their interactions with the rest of the town.
In the United States, the availability of choice is very important. Few things are mandatory and few things are banned, many fall in between and are available if one would like, which can be seen in the American controversy of autism-causing immunizations whereby parents sometimes forego vaccines only later to be hit by a crippling (and preventable) disease. What keeps this process continuing is the American adherence to ‘choice’ and ‘rights.’

I would like to define a tenet of American culture that I have observed, ‘refusable availability.’ One often retains the right of choice and is infrequently obligated to anything. For example, a parent can choose not to vaccinate their child. Conversely, the current political obligating a woman to carry a child to term is being met with liberal animosity. In-line with this thinking, medical services ought to be available but refusable.
A fourth and final presumption is that people who shy away from a particular technology will not be bothered by another group taking advantageous of that technological service, unless the group in question is paying for it. This is a large condition, and assumes that there is no in-fighting between minority groups because of what is available, but leaves room for donors of a particular religion (in this case, Irish Catholics) to be choosy when providing certain services that do not adhere to their own religious beliefs.
I would now like to address the likely wants and needs of the minority populations. In some Jewish cultures, ART’s and prenatal testing are largely accepted, with little issue in early fetus termination. In terms of the Shia populations, there are religious ways to circumvent the religious red tape associated with reproductive technologies (whose legality in the United States I am not sure of), so the presence of further testing or assistance probably bother a Shia in the next room.
Because the hospital has chosen to become non-denominational, it should no longer refuse services on the basis of religion or to appease religious donors. Based on the tenet that I have alluded to of ‘refusable availability’, hospital ought to provide uniform assistance to the under-insured. It could incorporate religious restriction if it were explicitly a religious isntitition, but by becoming non-denominational, it has foregone that privilege. If pre-natal exams, IVF, and ART, are being provided at the hospital, it should follow the guidelines for the under-insured that other medical services observe. It is the hospitals choice to provide particular services, which then affect different classes or ratings of the hospital (such as being a Level 1, 2, or 3 trauma center depending on trauma-related resources). It is not the place of the ethics committee to tell the hospital which services to provide, but it is my belief that the assistance that the under-insured enjoy should be matched in religiously controversial medical policies.
As for hospital employees encouraging families to allow unused embryos to be donated for research, I do not believe there is as much ground to defend such a request. Additionally, the same reasoning can be applied to limiting counseling by the Catholic clergy. There is little precedent to claim clergies from any particular religion should be throttled, as I would not support the same of any other religion. This interpretation upholds the federal First Amendment, which has recently been used to overturn Trump’s travel ban. This recent judicial precedent suggests that the First Amendment not only protects expression of religion, but denies legal judgement or restriction on the basis of religion.
Concerning the finances of the hospital and the potential unwillingness of historically Catholic nursing staff to perform abortions, there is no way I can support forcing nurses into performing abortions, but this can perhaps be ameliorated with a combination of switching nurses around departments to maximize abortion-capable nurses in the obstetric department, as well as financially incentivizing abortion.

Midterm Assignment Part One (Rasika Tangutoori)

Background Information

            I am a general surgeon currently working at the private hospital in Sasquatch, Connecticut. I identify as a Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim male. My family and I moved to Sasquatch 10 years ago, at which point we were the only Lebanese family in the community. However, there has been an influx of Lebanese immigrants and I am proud to say that I was recently elected as the president of the new Lebanese Cultural Association. With the growing immigrant populations in our community and my medical expertise, I am humbled to serve on this ethics committee as we transition to becoming a non-denominational hospital.

Policy Proposal

Reproductive Technology Use

IVF Treatments and Prenatal Testing

I believe the Sasquatch Hospital should begin to provide in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment and prenatal testing including amniocentesis. Though, the risk of miscarriage during an amniocentesis procedure is 1 in 200 (Rapp 97), which is the same as babies born with Down syndrome, patients in our community deserve to have the right to know about possible birth abnormalities. With the growing diversity in population, the availability of this procedure is essential as genetic diversity is also increasing.

Abortion Services

            The hospital should not provide abortion services, unless extenuating circumstances persist. These circumstances fall in line with the United States federal guidelines listed under the Hyde Amendment. Abortion services should only be provided when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest or is a medical threat to the woman’s life.

Though the hospital has become non-denominational, we must still consider the prevalent religious practices present in our community. IVF and prenatal testing allow for the expansion of knowledge, but abortion by two out of the three dominant religions in this community (Catholicism and Shi’ite Islam) prohibit the murder of a living being and an unborn fetus can be considered living as it is in the mother’s womb. The holy Quran teaches that “God had given people their bodies as a trust (amana) and that (we are) therefore responsible to take care it (Hamdy 151).” As a devout Muslim, I do not think it is ethical to break the amana that God has bestowed upon mankind and my fellow Catholic staff feels the same.

However, I also know that I have taken the Hippocratic oath and will follow all means to help patients live healthily. Thus, I propose that this hospital only provide abortion services when it is a medical necessity as explained at the onset of this section.

Unused Embryo Donation

From a medical perspective, I propose that unused embryos should be donated for life-saving research. I believe this follows the same reasoning as providing abortion services to women under extenuating circumstances. Unused embryos will not become living things and if they can lead to the cure of diseases, then it is worth it for them to be used for research.

Funding under-insured Patients

Subsidized funding for under-insured patients should be provided only for testing purposes, not abortion services even when extenuating circumstances persist. It is a pretty common standard around the Western world for governments to provide these funds. For example, “The French government normally reimburses medical procedures up to 80%, but in the case of infertility diagnosis and treatment, the national health insurance system covers the cost of the entire process (Ball 547).” Thus, I do not believe our hospital which condones abortion overall should provide funding for abortion services of those under-insured since they can get the funding elsewhere. Indeed the United States can currently use federal funds to fund under-insured patients with extreme cases for abortion.

Counseling Staff Regulations

Spiritual counseling by clergy should be continued, but the clergy should be opened to other religions that have recently become more prevalent within the Sasquatch community. “Shi’ites practice a form of individual religious reasoning known as ijtihad (Inhorn 18).” Thus, I believe all patients to this hospital across all religions should be able to have access to religious counseling in order to determine their course of medical action. Given that the vast majority of the community served is religious in some way, the inter-religious clergy will aid in daily smooth function of our hospital.

I propose implementing a mandatory training program for all counseling staff including social workers, genetic counselors, and clergy. This training program will educate counseling staff on official hospital policy regarding assistive reproductive technology and prenatal testing. It will give guidelines as to how staff can counsel under their own religious doctrines, while still adhering to hospital policy and national law.

Medical Staff Regulations

            Furthermore, I propose a similar training program for all medical staff at the hospital. All staff will not be required to be in agreement with hospital policies proposed, but rather should be aware of official hospital policy. The staff should be willing to uphold the official policies at the very least.

I know there is currently some tension among the Catholic nursing staff to perform these procedures. I do not think any of the staff should ever be required to perform procedures that are against their religious beliefs. Thus, a team of new hires and a few of the current staff who are willing will be chosen to make a team designated for all the procedures stated in this policy proposal. Nonetheless, as stated in the above training program, the staff unwilling to perform the procedures will still have to acknowledge that the procedures are being conducted at this hospital under structured circumstances.

Works Cited

Nan T Ball, “The Reemergence of Enlightenment Ideas in the 1994 French Bioethics Debates.” Duke Law Journal 50 (2000): 545-587.

Marcia Inhorn, He Won’t Be My Son: Middle Eastern Men’s Discourses of Gamete Donation.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20 (2006): 94-120.

Sherine F. Hamdy, “Does Submission to God’s Will Prevent Biotechnological Intervention?” In   Jeremy Stolow editor, Deus In Machina: Religion, Technology and the Things In-between (Fordham University Press, 2013), 143-57.

Rayna Rapp, Testing Women, Testing the Fetus (Routledge, 2000).

Giang Ha Midterm Assignment

As a Catholic nun, who was raised in a non-Catholic family and converted as a young adult, I do not believe that we should begin providing and subsidizing abortion services for under-insured patients. Every life, which is started at conception, is a gift from God—no ifs, ands, or buts—and thus should be protected. By providing and helping to pay for these services, it shows that we are in support of humans having the right to place or take away value on an innocent life (Donum Vitae 1988: 147). Furthermore, I do not think we should support IVF treatments and prenatal testing including amniocentesis. These services “expose [man] ‘to the temptation to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion over nature’” (Donum Vitae 1988: 141). A life is not ours to say whether or not it should be worth living, even if it may be in a woman’s womb.

Prenatal testing and amniocentesis gives patients the knowledge and the chance to “play God”, to be able to choose whether the life of a fetus is worth living or if the patient is able to care for the fetus when born. Prenatal testing does not tell a patient if his or her baby has a genetic disease. It only tells patients if the baby is at risk. In order to ensure a baby has a certain genetic disease, then amniocentesis should be carried out. Amniocentesis is an invasive process, and when getting this procedure, the patient has a 1:200 chance of getting a miscarriage, which is the same ratio of chance of a patient’s baby having Down’s syndrome if the patient is older. Additionally, being a parent includes the commitment to unconditionally love one’s baby, and choosing to get an abortion because of a genetic disease interferes with that commitment. Also, if given the option, “an infant wouldn’t choose to die like an adult would choose to die at the end of his [or her] life” (“The Burden of Knowledge: Moral Dilemmas in Prenatal Testing” 1994).

Giving these services and allowing patients to choose whether or not to keep the fetus further puts a stigma on people with disability. Why is it okay to have a normal baby whose personality might drive one crazy rather than a baby with Down’s syndrome? Why is it not normal to have a baby with Down’s syndrome? This is answer is due to societal pressures and a pressure to look like everyone. Lastly, these services only test for certain genetic diseases. There are a million other things that could go wrong during a pregnancy that we do not have technology to test for. If money and fear of not being able to provide the necessary care for children with genetic diseases arise, then there are still options such as putting the baby up for adoption. For example, according to the documentary “The Burden of Knowledge: Moral Dilemmas in Prenatal Testing”, there is waiting list of people wanting to adopt kids with Down’s syndrome (1994).

Though the local area is home to those who are in favor of IVF treatments, abortion, prenatal testing and amniocentesis, the hospital was based on Catholic roots. I think the Catholic roots should be revered. Additionally, the donor base is still prominently Irish Catholics. The hospital operates mostly from funds from our donors. Since we are choosing to subsidize medical care for under-insured patients, this hospital cannot function without our donor base, and thus the hospital should look to uphold Catholic values.

In addition to social workers and genetic counselor, the hospital use to provide spiritual counseling by Catholic clergy. This counseling should be continued and not open to clergy of other religions. These Catholic values are not just Catholic. They are humane values of humans valuing other human’s lives. They are values any human could have if they have respect for human life. Though I understand that the medical staff believes that the Catholic clergy are interfering with their work by opposing assisted reproductive technology and late term genetic testing, the medical staff can sometimes be close-minded to not the argument that the Catholic clergy are making. The medical staff can make decisions that they think are the best for the patients but fails to think about its consequences on the fetus. The decision to end a life of a fetus is not favored by us Catholics who also believe that our beliefs align with natural law.

Catholic clergy are not making a rushed decision but rather carefully thought out. We Catholics make our decides based on natural law. Natural law refers to rights that are embedded in nature and that can be reasoned out. Therefore, natural law cannot be opposite of what Scripture says. Both reason and Scripture influence each other. Natural law is also evident in the Declaration of Independence, a document that is dear to the hearts of all Americans. It states that we Americans have self-evident rights, which are then listed as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life here is extended to the life of unborn people as well since life starts at the point of conception. Thus, the reason that the Catholic Church makes universal claims that we think others should also consider is because they are grounded in natural law.

Our historically Catholic nursing staff has been alarmed by the possibility that the hospital will now provide abortion and reproduction services. For those nurses who are unwilling to perform these procedures, I’d say I would respect their decision and allow them not to perform these procedures. They should make sure that the patients do know all the current options available. Being misinformed can result in a decision that the patients are going to regret, especially while carrying fetus and while the woman’s body is going through hormonal changes. For example, if some patients knew that there was a waiting list of people wanting to adopt children with Down’s syndrome, they would not have continued with abortion. Making sure to reiterate their options to the patients will help them to make a more informed decision. I would ask the nurses to listen to the patients to see their reason for doing such procedures and see if there is anything the nurses can inform them about to help them make their decision. I would then tell the nurses, if any, who are willing to perform these services to go ahead with them.

I will also try to remind the nurses that ultimately, although I am also against these services, if the hospital starts to provide these services, that we are all children of God. The first commandment that God gives us is to love one another. We are not all perfect and strong enough to decide to have reject these abortion and reproductive services. Shower patients with love and patience while they are going through a difficult moment in their life. Unless they would like to resign from their position or continue to express their discontent to the administrators of the hospital, I would leave the work  with those are willing to do the services. In the case of having no nurses to provide the nurses, then the hospital should reconsider providing abortion and reproductive services especially if some funds will be lost and nurses refuse perform procedures. The hospital has to decide which is more important: serving the patient population or continue operating and functioning as a hospital.

Though we no longer in Biblical cosmology, Biblical cosmology can still continue to shape our society (Delaney 1995: 188). Our subconscious knows that life is precious. Killing a person can bring much guilt to a person. Conception brings about life that cannot be denied. If you had been someone with Down’s syndrome, and your parents decided to terminate you, how would you feel? Though at that point, one probably would not be able to feel, one also does not have the right to decide to terminate another person’s right. Every human, fetus, and embryo has the self-evident right to life.

God bless,

Sister Nguyen

Midterm Assignment – Molly Nestor

In a rapidly developing world centered around technology, I think it is time we, as a hospital, introduce the use of reproductive technology and prenatal testing to our hospital. These technologies not only reflect the incredible strides made in the medical world, but also provide pregnant women and their families with the ability to prepare for their future. As a physician at the Sasquatch Hospital, I believe these technologies are necessary to our hospital, for they will greatly improve the treatment we are able to provide to our patients.

With a growing and varied local population, the ultimate goal of our hospital should be to provide the best medical care our diverse population needs. While I understand the importance of our Catholic origins and what they mean to our donor base, I think it is more important to acknowledge the changing culture in our area. I recognize that some of the policies I am going to propose will not be conducive to the Catholic religion. However, I feel as though we should not limit the medical care and services our hospital can offer due to differing religious beliefs among our population.

One of the major policy changes I wish to make would be to provide reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization, and prenatal testing, such as amniocentesis. Over the past decade, these technologies have grown in popularity and acceptance, but still face some resistance regarding the ethics surrounding the decisions and outcomes of such technologies. Personally, I do not believe in-vitro fertilization nor prenatal testing are unethical. They are both harmless procedures and exist to facilitate and better comprehend pregnancy and its outcomes. While some may argue that IVF violates the natural laws regarding the appropriate way to conceive a child, I believe “natural laws” are more so a social construct and differ based on the individual and their beliefs. For example, the French bioethics laws initially, “restricted access to artificial reproductive technologies (ART) to sterile, heterosexual couples of childbearing age,” (Ball 2000: 545-546). The French put these restrictions in place out of fear the technological advances would alter cultural norms and defy what they considered “natural.” Although nature served as the source of truth for many Enlightenment philosophers, Rousseau stated, “philosophers of natural law who hold too strictly to the dictates of nature are ‘in habit of abstracting the content of natural law from the behavior of men in civil society. . .’” (Ball 2000: 579). I agree with Rousseau’s statement and believe that what most consider to be natural is subjective and developed from observations of society.

Along with providing IVF treatments, I would suggest implementing a provision to encourage families to allow unused embryos to be donated for life saving research. From a medical standpoint, research done on embryos is somewhat rare and the findings from such research could turn out to be crucial in the future. I understand some families will be unwilling to donate their unused embryos due to personal beliefs, but I think the provision should be included regardless. The demographic in our community has changed dramatically over the years and I think more individuals would be willing to donate unused embryos for research purposes. In order for a patient to make what they believe to be the right decision, it is important for doctors and medical professionals to explain in detail what donating an unused embryo to research entails, conveying both the benefits and consequences of donations. I want to stress that it is unacceptable to make families feel as though they are forced to donate. Pressuring a patient into making a decision that goes against what they believe in is unethical and violates our role as doctors to provide the best possible care and treatment. If the patient chooses not to donate their unused embryo, then we must honor their decision.

Prenatal testing is another service I suggest we provide at our hospital. Prenatal testing, such as amniocentesis, allows pregnant women to test for abnormalities, disorders, and defects of the fetus that previously could have only been realized once the child was born. From a medical standpoint, this technology is revolutionary, providing women with a wealth of knowledge while also giving them time to consider their situation and prepare for the outcome. As stated by someone who has undergone prenatal testing, “what harm can a test do if its going to provide you with important information?” (The Burden of Knowledge: Moral Dilemmas in Prenatal Testing, 1994). Some claim that by offering the tests we would be creating anxiety; however, I find that to be completely false. Just because the tests exist, it does not mean one must undergo them. If anything the existence of the tests can serve to shorten the period of anxiety and relieve women of the unknown.

In regards to the efficacy of prenatal testing, I believe offering and deciding to receive prenatal testing are both ethical decisions. In a study about women and the option to undergo prenatal testing, Reyna Rapp, a feminist anthropologist, described women who received prenatal testing as “moral pioneers.” She viewed these women as individuals who, “submitted to the discipline of a new reproductive technology in order to reap its biomedical benefits,” (Rapp 2004: 307). The decision to use prenatal testing has been given a negative stigma due to the fact that the test results may cause one to be more likely to get an abortion. However, that is not always the case and it should be noted that prenatal tests have the ability to provide women immense medical benefits, without a resulting in a negative outcome. The tests allow women to become aware of the situation they are going to face and provide them with more knowledge and time to prepare for the arrival of their child. Although prenatal tests are considered unethical by certain religions, I believe, as a non-denominational hospital, it is important to look at access to prenatal testing on a more individual, secular basis.

While I personally support the use of prenatal testing, I do understand the issues some individuals still have with such tests, one of them being abortion. A few years ago, the majority of our community was Catholic and many members of the community felt that it was unethical for our hospital to provide abortion services. In recent years, the demographic of our community has sufficiently changed, bringing new cultures and beliefs to our population. After surveying the population, I found close to half of the community identified as pro-choice, reflecting a shift in our cultural norm. Because of this, I advise that the hospital provide abortion services to both insured and uninsured patients. Subsidies for abortions should also be provided and should be determined on a case by case analysis of the patient and their financial situation. I realize that most of the donors still identify with the Catholic religion and the church’s viewpoint on abortion, but we must realize that we are now a non-denominational hospital, and we should respect and cater to the changing ideals reflected in our society. As doctors and providers of care, we made a decision to help the lives of others above all else, regardless of whether or not we personally agree with such services.

The notion of cultural competency has become extremely important in aiding the communication and understanding between patients and their medical team. Defined as, “the need [for healthcare providers] to be understanding as well as sensitive to the different cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and belief systems of their patients,” cultural competency allows doctors to adequately and effectively provide care based on their patient and the patient’s needs (Bhattacharya 2006: 5). Regarding the improvement of cultural competency, I think it would be beneficial to continue counseling from Catholic clergy and expand counseling services to clergy of all religions. Being as we are no longer a predominately Catholic community, I believe the expansion of religious counseling services is integral to providing the best care our diversified community. Throughout my experience, I have come to find that religion helps some patients better understand the rather secular nature of the medical language.

In implementing this provision, it has come to my understanding that some doctors have complained about how the opposition to reproductive technology by clergy interferes with their work as a medical professional. As a doctor, I understand the frustration that stems from patients choosing to listen to religious guidance over medical expertise, but the implementation of religious counseling could greatly improve the patient/provider relationship. An example of how religious beliefs come to effect medical decisions can be found in a study done by Sherine F. Hamdy in which she examines why Muslim men come to refuse life-saving treatments. One Muslim dialysis patient in Egypt refused to get a kidney transplant because he believed his body “belong[ed] to God,” and God had already decided when he would die before he was even born, so accepting a transplant would be altering God’s decided path for him (Hamdy 2013). As a doctor, it’s hard to see a patient refuse a treatment that would save their life, but it is important to respect their decision and understand the beliefs behind the decision.

With these new provisions in place, I believe this hospital will be better suited to serve the needs of our local population. By acknowledging both our individual differences and the ever-changing nature of society, we will be able to provide more advanced medical service and improve the lives of those in our community.


Sai Greeshma Magam – Midterm Assignment (Part 1)

Sasquatch Community Hospital

Sasquatch, Connecticut


March 21, 2017


Dear Ethics Committee,

My name is Greeshma Magam and I am a female Indian-American physician who is an active follower of the Hindu faith. Due to my diverse background, I was asked by the hospital administrators to provide a complementary perspective to the pressing questions addressing alternate reproductive technologies that your committee is discussing at this time.

It is my understanding that your hospital currently subsidizes medical care for under-insured patients, a practice that must be very beneficial to the low-income members of your community. However, with the rise of artificial reproductive technologies and the expensive cost of these amenities, I understand where your dilemma comes from.

Although abortion services are still a highly debated topic in the healthcare industry, there are certain circumstances in which I believe that offering these services are necessary. Due to the expensive nature of these services and the size of your hospital, it would be impossible to subsidize abortion services to every under-insured patient considering the procedure. However, I do believe that the subsidization of abortions at your hospital should be offered to under-insured women on a case-by-case basis. In order to form a guideline for what circumstances permit the subsidization of abortion services, I looked to the stance that the US government currently takes with federal funding. The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of taxpayer funding to cover the costs of abortion services in Medicaid patients (ACLJ). However, a provision during the Obama Administration made it flexible, so that abortion services be provided to Medicaid patients in the case of rape, incest, or threat of life to the woman (ACLJ). While this amendment is also under debate, I believe this is a good guideline to follow for the subsidization of abortion services at your rural, privately-owned hospital.

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is an expensive procedure for families who are unable to conceive naturally. While I believe that IVF is an important medical service that should be offered, I understand due to its’ expenses why your hospital would be unable to subsidize these services for under-insured patients. Unless your hospital can receive funding for these services, I do not believe that IVF should be subsidized. However, I do believe that these services should be in-place in this hospital in the event that patients who can afford its’ services want to undergo this procedure.

As a member of the healthcare industry with research background, I do believe that there should be a provision where the hospital should encourage families to allow unused embryos to be donated for potentially life-saving research for families undergoing the IVF treatments. While this decision is entirely up to the parents, I believe that educating them about the progress being done in this field, and the benefits of this research, is essential for parents to make an informed decision regarding their unused embryos. In my opinion, donating unused embryos to science is a great idea, especially since those embryos will die on their own given time. Recent research has shown that there is a potential in embryonic stem cells that isn’t available in adult stem cells and using this method to further research can help in “gene therapy for genetic disorders, and the generation of replacement tissues and organs for transplant” (APH). While encouragement from the hospital is acceptable, under no circumstance should the hospital try to pressure parents to change their decision regarding donating their unused embryos for research purposes.

Prenatal testing and amniocentesis are rights that I believe should be offered to all expecting parents, regardless of their ability to afford the costs. It should be a parent’s decision whether or not they would like to use prenatal testing or amniocentesis during their pregnancy, but I believe that they should be available to everyone across the board. Prenatal testing, or blood serum testing, is not a diagnostic tool; however, is necessary for “prevention, protection, and reassurance” for family members and can detect for neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, down’s syndrome, and anencephaly (The Burden of Knowledge, 1994). Unlike the blood serum test that is common in prenatal testing, there is more concern with amniocentesis, as there is a 0.05% chance of miscarriage after undergoing the procedure (The Burden of Knowledge, 1994). Whether or not to use the amenities provided by the hospital is a decision left to the parents, but in the end, I still think that access to these types of tests is necessary, for those who choose to use them. Even if the subsequent procedures are not available, it is my belief that the knowledge is always beneficial in preparing the parents about what to expect in raising a child with disabilities. In addition, there is a significant Jewish population within the community your hospital serves. As Tsipy Ivry describes in her ethnography, Embodying Culture, there is an authoritative knowledge of pregnancy in Israel called “geneticism,” in which the mother is responsible for undergo diagnostic testing in order to ensure the health of her child. In order to be inclusive of the views of your patient population, there should be access to testing within your hospital, and the decision to use these services should be left up to the parents and family members involved.

Your committee is also debating the inclusion of spiritual counseling by Catholic clergy. While historically Catholic, your hospital is currently non-denominational. Due to this, I believe that if Catholic clergy is present for counseling, your patients should have access to clergy members of other faiths as well, especially since the population you treat includes people of many faiths and cultural backgrounds. Regardless of the testing and technology that the medical staff favors, the eventual decision for or against the use of assisted reproductive technologies should encompass the views of the patients. As a member of the science community, it can be hard to sometimes differentiate your views from others, but in the end, this decision will impact the lives of the parents more than it will impact the lives of the healthcare providers. Catering to the values, traditions, and faiths of individual patients is equitable to the conversation that Swasti Bhattacharyya describes as “cultural competency” in her book Magical Progeny, Modern Technology (Page 23).

I understand that some of your nursing staff is concerned regarding the potential reproductive technologies your hospital may offer, especially since they hold conservative Catholic views. In order to provide these services and still keep the staff of your hospital satisfied, I believe the hospital administrators should send out a questionnaire to understand exactly how many members of the staff will not provide the procedures, how many are comfortable with assisting in the procedures, and how many will provide the procedures. Using this data, hospital administrators can devise teams of members who can perform the procedures. In this case, the hospital will be developing teams who are comfortable in performing prenatal testing, IVF, amniocentesis, and abortion, while also respecting the views of the primarily Catholic staff who do not want to perform the procedures.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my position regarding these topics. I hope that I was able to provide an alternate perspective to your discussion of artificial reproductive technology.


Greeshma Magam, M.D.






Midterm Assignment (Hannah Gold)

My name is Hannah Gold: anthropologist, scientist, and mother. I am here to speak in opposition to this policy proposal. I am from a nearby city outside of Sasquatch therefore I can provide an unbiased, reason-based outsider perspective on this ethical dilemma. I want to begin by outlining the Catholic Church’s position on the topic of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). We must first understand where this hospital stood on this issue prior to its separation from the church in order to judge just how big of a value shift this hospital would have to make if we were to begin to subsidize abortion services, IVF treatments, and prenatal testing. Donum Vitae, the statement by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on bioethical issues, takes a clear stance against ART if it in any way endangers a fetus. The church states, “Since the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned.” (CDF, 1987: 149) This translates to a complete opposition to abortion and IVF (due to the fact that it is not morally permissible to destroy an embryo at any stage), and acceptance of but strict limitations to prenatal testing. Hypothetically this hospital could offer non-invasive prenatal testing and have it align with its previous values. However, what happens if the tests uncover something horribly wrong with the fetus? There are no options here, as abortion is absolutely not permitted. This begs the question, what is the use of offering amniocentesis procedures if nothing can be done about positive results?

Beyond the official documentation of the Catholic Church’s position, these values permeate into the everyday lives of practicing Catholics. A look into the history of this town and its inhabitants is proof of this; it took until 2017 for this hospital to even consider offering assisted reproductive services. In her ethnography Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, anthropologist Rayna Rapp interviewed American women of many denominations to understand the role that spirituality plays in decision-making during pregnancy. One woman said, “Basically, I grew up Catholic, I think it’s tragic to end a pregnancy, to end a life.” (Rapp, 2004: 155) Rapp writes, “several catholic women…told me they were afraid to go to confession in their neighborhood parish churches after having amniocenteses.” (Rapp, 2004: 159) It should be clear by now that, based on the value system outlined above and the fact that this town has operated under Catholic auspices for over one hundred years now, this hospital has a long way to go on the road to accepting and offering reproductive technologies.

Now, a divorce from the Irish-Catholic denomination is a fantastic opportunity to update the ethical ground upon which this hospital operates; an opportunity to include belief paradigms and ethics systems of this entire community rather than just appealing to the catholic ideology. One way we should do so is by discontinuing spiritual counseling for Catholics. This type of counseling serves a very narrow audience. Our objective here is to become more inclusive; to offer services that all community members will be accepting of and have access to. Spiritual counseling through medical decisions can very well continue within specific religious circles, however it is not a necessary component of this hospital. A separation from the Catholic Church requires a clean slate and a redesign of the foundational values this community is built upon. We now must consider the broader community of Jews, non-Irish Catholics, Japanese immigrants and Shiite Muslims, and the values systems represented by individuals within these groups.

In her ethnography Reproducing Jews, Susan Kahn evaluates the Jewish-Israeli position on assisted conception, which is arguably the most liberal out of our four representative populations. She writes, “at the time of my research in the mid-1990s, there were more fertility clinics per capita in Israel than any other country in the world.” (Kahn, 2000: 2) Kahn ultimately argues that these technologies are supported by, not counter to, Jewish religious law. She writes, “from the perspective of Jewish law, infertile couples seeking to solve their childlessness with the air of new reproductive technologies does not evolve out of a consumerist impulse but out of a compulsion to fulfill a divine commandment.” (Kahn, 2000: 170) However, despite a general acceptance of ART in the Jewish community, that is not to say that all Jews are equally tolerant. In his chapter in the book Kin, Gene, Community, Dr. Don Seeman mentions Rabbi Eliezer Waldenman, an “important posek (decisor) identified with the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox community of Jerusalem, which opposed IVF as ‘unnatural.’” (Seeman, 2009: 349) A similar dichotomy is observed in the Shi’ite Muslim population. In her article titled Kinship, Propriety, and Assisted Reproduction in the Middle East, Morgan Clarke writes, “Almost all authorities, Sunni and Shi’a, are in agreement that artificial interventions in human reproduction are welcome, as a scientific advance and medical boon, insofar as they involve only a husband and wife couple.” (Clarke, 2007: 74) While this guideline seems simple, it is actually ripe with complexity in practice. IVF, donor insemination, and surrogacy arrangements are considered forms of adultery, therefore are forbidden by Islamic law. (Clarke, 2007: 75) Even when the procedures are performed, there is extreme judgment surrounding them. Through interviews with medical contacts in Lebanon, Clarke found that “infertility is stigmatized, and any suspicion of abnormality, especially in the field of sexuality and reproduction, is to be avoided.” (Clarke, 2007: 74) Lastly, we shall examine Japanese populations. In her studies on reproductive technologies in Japanese medical practice, anthropologist Tsipy Ivry found that technologies such as prenatal diagnosis “currently [are] located backstage of prenatal care.” (Ivry, 2010: 77) She cites the reason for this opposition to be the fact that Japanese people regard a mother and fetus as one single entity. She writes,

“The gravity of the conceptual tension that PND tests—a set of technologies in which ‘the embryo and fetus come to be visualized as patient-like entities entirely or largely independent of the woman’s body’ (Locke 1998, 206)—introduce into a medical system that tends to emphasize the embodied mode of maternal responsibilities for fetal health.” (Ivry, 2010: 105)

Here there isn’t so much a conflict of beliefs and values like we have seen in Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim populations, there is just a general lack of interest in these services.

We can now consider a scenario in which this hospital provides abortion services and subsidizes them for under-insured patients, and how this would affect our patients, staff, and finances. As detailed above, the values held by the ethnic and religious groups in this community have extremely mixed opinions about ART. Even in the Jewish population, seemingly the most liberal when it comes to reproductive technologies, there exists fierce opposition to many of the practices. Of course the positions I outlined above are not by any means wholly representative, rather they likely inform the individual experience of decision-making during pregnancy. We therefore should not offer these services because evidence suggests there would not be a large enough consumer/user population.

Next, we must consider the staff of this hospital and the administrators who run it. A useful analogy here is that of traffic waves. When a traffic incident occurs such as an accident or construction, traffic on a highway will continue in a specific location long after the cause of the back-up has cleared. This physical phenomenon is analogous in many ways to the introduction of new technologies into a hospital. Say we make a decision to offer ARTs in our hospital. We have resolved our ethical traffic jam; however there would be persistent consequences of the implementation of these technologies for the staff who must use them. We are, essentially, forcing a value system upon a population of healthcare professionals and requiring that they perform procedures they do not agree with. Even if the doctors are willing to do the procedures, consider the stigma they hold. In her interviews with medical professionals in Lebanon, Morgan Clarke found that clinicians had to be extremely careful to tiptoe around the stigma. She wrote, “medical contact in Lebanon initially insisted on my signing a confidentiality clause, warning me, with perhaps exaggerated concern, that a breach of privacy could result in ‘honour killings’.”(Clarke, 2007: 77) In Rayna Rapp’s work, she found that many Catholic women feared going to their neighborhood churches after having amniocentesis. (Rapp, 2004: 159). I will now outline potential consequences of requiring hospital personnel to do these procedures.

As I mentioned above, the values held by our predominantly Irish-Catholic staff would interfere with them performing procedures such as abortions, IVF, and amniocentesis. This is a large reason why our hospital should not offer them. Though we are working with trained healthcare professionals, it is not a good idea to allow a community of healthcare workers to perform procedures they fundamentally do not agree with. This would be irresponsible for a hospital to do, as the quality of care would go down.

Finally, we all know how important a donor base is to a hospital, especially one in rural Connecticut. Who is to say that we could even afford the technology, never mind pay new specialists to perform the procedures and counsel our patients? Without a donor base, how conceivable is it that we could acquire the technology, hire people to train our staff, and hire more staff to perform the procedures? It has come to my attention that doctors have complained about Catholic clergy interfere with their work. Susan Kahn describes a similar scenario in Reproducing Jews, where rabbinic concerns for ART provide a major obstacle to Orthodox Jews seeking these medical procedures. In fact there is an entire organization (titled PUAH) is dedicated to mediating the relationship between religious and medical authorities in Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel (Kahn, 2000: 89). My answer to this dilemma is, what about the business we lose when patients deflect to other hospitals? What about the money we lose on equipment and professionals to perform procedures, with no one willing to have them? Perhaps most significant, what about the money we lose when we lose our donor base? To a certain point it is very important to appeal to the values of those who give us money. As Adam Smith said, “all money is a matter of belief.”

On the one hand, a hospital has a duty to reflect the beliefs of its population, or else a foundation of trust and mutual understanding cannot exist. Anthropologist Sherine Hamdy writes,

“the perceived efficacy of a treatment plays an important role in shaping one’s ethical stance toward it. To understand how patients arrive at complex ethical decisions, we must be attentive and vigilant to their own experiences and understandings of their disease processes and etiology and their own cost-benefit analyses, which may be articulated in religious terms.” (Hamdy, 2012: 156)

If we begin to offer and subsidize abortion services, individual with strict catholic beliefs on abortion will feel less comfortable seeking treatment at this hospital. Being the main resource for healthcare in this community, that cannot and should not be the case. In Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, Rayna Rapp discusses the importance of environment to women and families seeking care at hospitals. The more successful patient care settings Rapp observed are those in which patients feel the most comfortable. She writes, “entering into the ecology of prenatal clinics are the stability of residential neighbourhoods: city, state, and federal health care funding and politics, hospital labor contract negotiations and issues of community control.” (Rapp, 2004: 169) Additionally, in her book Magical Progeny, Modern Technology, Swasti Bhattacharyya highlights the importance of what she calls “cultural competency.” This is defined as “the need [for healthcare providers] to be understanding as well as sensitive to the different cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and belief systems of their patients.” (Bhattacharyya, 2006: 5) By offering treatments that fundamentally clash with the beliefs of most of our patient demographic, we are putting our cultural competency in jeopardy. This hospital thus should not offer or subsidize abortion services, IVF treatments or prenatal testing.

On the other hand, as a modern-day hospital it would be irresponsible to not offer the most advanced and up to date treatments to our community. Additionally, not offering these services does not mean members of our community will not seek them out, it just means they have more hoops to jump through to receive adequate care. I propose we open a separate fertility clinic in our community, not affiliated with the hospital. This will provide an opportunity to offer abortion, IVF services, and prenatal testing, as well as hire a new staff with no conflicts of interest. Through a detailed analysis of many religious/cultural standpoints on issues of bioethics, it becomes extremely clear that patients seeking reproductive therapies should be considered in a case-by-case basis so as to respect the complex nature of decision-making in pregnancy. In their ethnographic work titled Blessing Unintended Pregnancy, Don Seeman et al write, “as many studies show, women make decisions about mothering and reproduction amid a complex layering of structures, beliefs, and values…” (Seeman et al, 2016: 44) Rayna Rapp argues that women are “at once held accountable at the individual level for a cascade of broadly social factors which shape the health outcome of each pregnancy, and individually empowered to decide whether and when there are limits on voluntary parenthood.” (Rapp, 2004: 319) A hospital previous rooted to such a specific set of values is not equipped to honor this complexity. However, a separate clinic in our community would. Let’s stop trying to squeeze the practice of ART into our institution, a place that comes with heavy baggage that would be tough to divorce from. Rather, let’s focus our efforts on building a safe space–unaffiliated with any one belief system–and hiring trained and willing staff so families can make their own decisions about fertility therapies.






Midterm Assignment Part One: Petar Zotovic

Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Prenatal Testing Policy Proposal


Dear Ethics Committee of Sasquatch Medical Center,

My name is Petar Zotovic and I am a fertility physician here at Sasquatch Medical Center (SMC). Recently, the Catholic Church has allowed our hospital to become non-denominational, one of the reasons being due to the diverse and growing population of Sasquatch, Connecticut. As you all know, Sasquatch has deep Irish Catholic roots and this was an important factor to consider while constructing the policy proposal. To members of the committee who do not fully understand the beliefs of each group in Sasquatch, I will state them briefly to you.

Irish Catholics are vastly against the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) and prenatal testing (in cases of abortion), such as amniocentesis (Cahill et al. 1988: 143). In recent years, the city has seen a rise in population of minority groups which hold differing beliefs regarding ARTs and prenatal testing. The Jewish community favors the idea of ARTs, noting God’s first commandment, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth, and subdue it…” (Bible Hub, Genesis. 1.28). With regards to prenatal testing, the Jewish population supports and even encourages procedures which may benefit a mother and fetus (NISHMAT 2000: 2). The Caucasian and African American population also support the use of ARTs and prenatal screenings if prices are affordable. The majority of African Americans in Sasquatch who live in poverty has increased by four percent in the past decade, and most are under-insured (Armstrong, Plowden 2012: 652). I am mentioning this because these individuals will qualify as patients for which the hospital will subsidize their medical care. In addition, Lebanese Shiites are proponents of ARTs as long as they are able to preserve their faith in Allah during the procedures. Similarly, they support prenatal screenings (Inhorn 2006: 96-97). The increasing Japanese population advocate the use of ARTs, especially in vitro fertilization (IVF), but opt out on prenatal testing. They prefer to abide by an “environmentalist” approach, which states that the mother is directly responsible for her fetus and is to make sure she does not gain excessive weight or engage in any unhealthy activities (Ivry 2009: 11). After taking into consideration the various beliefs of the people in Sasquatch, I am proposing a policy which allows the use of all ARTs available to the hospital; in addition, prenatal screenings are only allowed if the intention is to not abort a fetus if an abnormality is found to exist. My policy proposal attempts to satisfy the diverse population in Sasquatch, while still attempting to adhere to its Catholic roots regarding prenatal testing.

In attempts to abide by the still prevalent and dominant Catholic faith in Sasquatch, all attempts at abortion will not be executed. In the past, Sasquatch was a safe haven for Irish Catholics and was once ruled by Catholic auspices, so retaining some of their beliefs is still important. In addition, I agree with Cahill et al. in Donum Vitae when they state that “The human being must be respected- as a person- from the very first instant of his existence” (1988: 147). As a result, subsidies will not be granted in abortion cases. In alliance with my stance on abortion, prenatal screenings may only be conducted to examine a fetus for abnormalities. No attempts at termination may be done once tests have been performed. If the results of a prenatal test, such as amniocentesis, return with negative results, then the patient will have the opportunity to discuss their feelings and find ways to cope with a hospital counselor. All ARTs, including IVF, will be subsidized by the hospital for under-insured patients. IVF protocol will have a provision which will respect Islamic law; the provision will state that Shiite Muslims are eligible to participate in IVF if it involves a husband and wife couple. I am stating this because of Morgan Clarke’s ethnographic study in Lebanon; she concluded that Islamic law plays a crucial role in determining rules by which females must abide by if they want to undergo IVF treatment (Clarke 2007: 72). In her study, she comments “The prime principle at stake here is whether such scenarios are analogous to, if not identical with, the heinous crime of zina, that is sexual relations between parties not bound by a contract of marriage…” (Clarke 2007: 74-75). The preceding quote demonstrates the necessity of a husband and wife couple when performing IVF on Muslims. Of course, IVF treatment not between a husband and wife couple will be allowed if the patient and donor both agree and/or if no religious beliefs are interfered with. The following protocol on IVF will show the emerging minority population their beliefs are heard of and will be respected at SMC.

With regards to unused embryos being used for life-saving research, SMC must abide by two provisions. The first provision states that SMC will not be allowed to abort any embryos, keeping in line with Catholic roots in Sasquatch. The second provision states that frozen embryos may be used for life-saving research if they have not been placed inside the mother’s uterus and if the patients’ give consent. With regards to the second provision, I align with the Islamic belief that an embryo is not considered human if it is not inside the mother’s uterus; the embryo outside the uterus will not survive if it is unfrozen and is therefore not considered human (Eich 2008: 63). In “Decision Making Processes Among Contemporary ‘Ulma’: Islamic Embryology and the Discussion of Frozen Embryos”, Thomas Eich describes ‘Abd al-Salam al-Ibadi’s view on the topic by mentioning “Concerning the question of frozen embryos, he argued that the majority of classical fuqaha would have opposed abortion. Therefore, the use of frozen embryos for research could not be allowed, and the embryos should be implanted in the mother’s uterus” (2008: 68). I disagree with Ibadi’s statement because a large number of Muslims have differing views from the classical fuqaha he describes. Instead, expected costs and benefits, such as the opportunity to save a life, should be analyzed when deciding to donate frozen embryos for research.  Above all listed priorities, patient consent is paramount. Only once patients have been fully informed about the research process, they will be able to donate their frozen embryos for research. This will eliminate any confusion on behalf of the patient and enable them to have more confidence in their decision.

Throughout patients’ time at SMC, they will have access to genetic and social counselors. Spiritual counseling by Catholic clergy and access to spiritual counseling of other religions will not be utilized. Genetic counselors will be tasked with informing patients of risks they might face through ARTs and prenatal screenings and social counselors will help patients cope with any negative news that result from such screenings (as mentioned earlier in proposal). Spiritual counseling of any religion will not employed because physicians and nurses (mostly Catholic) at SMC will be required to enroll in a “cultural competency” course which will enable them to better understand the beliefs of all patients. Because the hospital budget for hiring new personnel is limited, this provision will not only save the hospital money, but will also improve physician/nurse-patient communication. Swasti Bhattacharyya mentions in Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology that cultural competency is “the ability to provide care that is compatible with the values, traditions, and faiths of the patient” (2006: 21). This will be a new task physicians and nurses encounter, but will ultimately prove beneficial for the functioning of the hospital.

My job in this hospital is to be a fertility physician, which means doing anything in my power to ensure the healthy status of a fetus or baby. At the same time, I realize that the population of Sasquatch is changing rapidly, and new hospital accommodations are necessary. The policy proposal I am presenting to this committee attempts to reflect the hospital’s Catholic origins, while at the same time portraying a sense of humility to the increasing minority group in Sasquatch. I urge the entire ethics committee to consider this policy proposal with open minds and to vote for the passing of the proposal only if they believe it serves a humbling and beneficial purpose to the hospital staff and patients.


Thank You,

Petar Zotovic, M.D.




Works Cited

Armstrong, Plowden. “Ethnicity and Assisted Reproductive Technologies.” NCBI,

vol. 9, no. 6, 2012, 651-658.

The Bible. Bible Hub, Columbia International University, 1993.

“Prenatal Testing.” NISHMAT, 2000, 2.

All other sources are from class readings.











Midterm assignment – Diana Cagliero

I am on the hospital ethics committee as the head of the nursing staff and as a nurse practitioner. I am from an Irish catholic background as are the majority of the other nurses. I have worked at this hospital for 30 years and was reluctant to see it go through the transition of becoming non-denominational. I speak for the majority of the nurses at the hospital who have expressed to me similar complaints as myself.


Our private hospital should continue in its longstanding tradition of not providing abortion services to our patients. Not only do our donors come from Catholic backgrounds and we would risk our funding in order to provide these services, but abortion services are immoral and do not respect the dignity of the individual. Medicine works to protect the good of human life, and healthcare staff works to assist a patient struck with illness, regardless of their insurance status (Donum Vitae 1987:145). It is important that we continue to exercise the Christian will of charity to address the needs of our poorest and most vulnerable patients by continuing to subsidize other forms of medical care. However, the most vulnerable in our society include the defenseless and those with no voice. It is therefore that as members of this community we must protect the unborn who only have us to speak up for them. It is important to note that these Catholic teachings are not only based in scriptures shared with our fellow Abrahamic religions but are also based in secular reasoning. For instance, while it is written in the book of Genesis that man was made in the image of God, rational arguments based in nature are also used by the Church to defend its positions, and those arguments can be used in any secular setting. Donum Vitae, the church’s doctrine on the respect for human life with regard to new technologies, states, “No biologist or doctor can reasonably claim, by virtue of his scientific competence, to be able to decide on people’s origin and destiny” (Donum Vitae 1987:145). It is outside of the moral bounds of any healthcare professional to be able to defend or justify their own ability to possess this deterministic value with regards to who will survive. It is our job and the job of this hospital to alleviate suffering of its patients and not to provide abortion services. While our hospital is somewhat remote from others, abortion services are not needed in emergency settings (unless of course the mother’s life is at immediate risk and there is no other option but to proceed with the abortion as an indirect consequence of saving the mother’s life, under which this action would be permissible as they life of the mother is equally as important as that of the fetus) and therefore individuals who choose not to follow this mandate are able to find these services in clinics in the state of Connecticut. The state of Connecticut follows the national precedent of Roe v. Wade and recognizes a human person after the beginning of the third trimester (although scientific advances are proving that premature babies are beginning to survive at even earlier gestation weeks than set out by the law). We argue that while the beginning of physical life at conception does not by any means “contain the whole of a person’s value nor does it represent the supreme good of man”, it does “constitute in a certain way the ‘fundamental’ value of life precisely because upon this physical life all the other values of the person are based and developed” (Donum Vitae 1987:146).

Similarly to the reasoning behind refusing abortion services, I believe that the hospital should not allow for IVF treatments when such treatments result in the discarding of “extra” embryos. It is important to reflect on this position from a rational lens, examining the fundamental values of life and whether or not it is permissible for technological interventions to replace human procreation and to affect a human in the first stages of development (Donum Vitae 1987: 146). In fact this teaching has been backed by science in the sense that “modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, the program is fixed as to what this living being will be: a man, this individual man with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life” (Donum Vitae 1987:148). Therefore IVF treatment disrupts the development of a new life, and therefore changes the natural course of events in human’s biology. Technology is so advanced that now individuals can choose embryos based on lack of disability, or even gender. This type of selectivity puts the physician and the parents as usurpers of the place of God, as they will be “the master of the destiny of others inasmuch as [they] arbitrarily chooses whom [they] will allow to live and whom [they] will send to death and kills defenseless human beings” (Donum Vitae 1987:154). To prevent IVF is to safeguard against what could approach becoming a new type of eugenics, pitting parents against children of disability or children of a certain sex. We as a hospital ethics board must continue to prevent these future immoral acts.

Prenatal diagnosis is acceptable under the moral lens of the church, and I believe that we should continue to assist expecting mothers in all ways possible including prenatal testing. Prenatal testing can assume mothers that they are expecting a healthy baby, or it can make it possible for mothers to plan for accommodating disability or future medical procedures to be carried out on the child (Donum Vitae 1987:150). However, amniocentesis may only be performed if it is believed to “safeguard the life and integrity of the embryo and the mother, without subjecting them to disproportionate risks” (Donum Vitae 1987:150). Amniocentesis is becoming an increasingly safe practice with a trained professional so we believe the evaluation of the risks should be performed and explained to the mother on a case-by-case basic. While I believe that on a hospital-level prenatal diagnosis must continue to be performed, it is important to note that we as medical professionals should not “induce expectant mothers to submit to prenatal diagnosis planned for the purpose of eliminating fetuses which are affected by malformations or which are carriers of hereditary illness, is to be condemned as a violation of the unborn child’s right to life” (Donum Vitae 1987:150). The purpose behind prenatal diagnosis should not be to result in abortion but rather to provide reassurance or assistance to expecting mothers. It is important that as medical professionals we inform mothers of the nature of the testing or at the minimum remain value neutral in order not act in favor of terminating life based on whatever characteristics are considered “better”.


The community based around this hospital is increasingly diverse, and I believe that we as a hospital system should grow in our spiritual counseling to reflect that diversity. The Church holds the utmost respect for other religions and I believe that we should diversify our counseling group to reflect this. In less centralized religions such as Islam or Judaism, the advice of different counselors is especially important to families as there is less of a centralized mandate compared to that of the Church. The values placed on new families may also be different, for instance instead of focusing on natural law and the human person, Islam bases much of its reproductive ethics on the legitimacy of kinship relation (Clarke 2007: 82). These different methods of guidance should be available to our patients.

While many of these religions are more permissible and flexible with regards to ARTs, abortion and prenatal testing, it does not require us as a hospital to provide these different services. On one hand, belief systems of patients may play a large role in why patients choose to undertake procedures that are considered morally impermissible and against natural law (Rapp 2000: 53). At the same time, healthcare delivery in the United States is centered on choice and free will and these patients may go elsewhere to take part in these services. It would be more morally impermissible for us as a hospital to create exceptions, allowing for certain religious groups to obtain these procedures and going against our traditional hospital mandate, than for us to make a blanket statement that provides equivalent and morally justified services to all of our patients.

With regard to the claim that Catholic clergy are interfering with the doctors’ work, it is important to understand that families absolutely always have the right to refuse testing or ARTs, or any treatment in general. The doctors in this hospital should not be recommending that women undergo treatment that puts the fetus at unnecessary risk and should not allow for IVF treatment due to the destruction of fertilized embryos. If doctors are unable to recommend against these procedures for the reasons stated earlier they should at the minimum remain value neutral and refer the patient elsewhere if it is their expressed desire to undertake these morally illicit procedures.


Clearly as the head of the nursing staff and a nurse practitioner I believe that new nurses should absolutely not be hired based just on their willingness to assist in abortion and IVF procedures. It is in the right of a nurse or doctor to refuse partaking in these services as they do not want to be a part of a morally illicit activity that results in the death of human persons. It is morally impermissible for a hospital institution to force an individual to act against their religious beliefs with the threat of being fired. This would violate hospital policy as well as state and federal law. If these services are not provided to our patients, this would no longer be an issue for the nurses at this hospital. Refusing to allow for abortion services is also important to our donor base that allows for us to run a hospital that saves the lives of individuals in this relatively remote area, an objective we as a board should prioritize above all else.

Midterm Assignment – Rachel Spector

As the CEO of Sasquatch Hospital, I have been asked to craft a new policy proposal regarding assisted reproductive technologies and prenatal testing. I accepted this job just as the hospital was shifting away from its official association with the Catholic religion a few years ago. Over the past few years, I have gotten to know the many different populations that make up Sasquatch, Connecticut. I have also been in communication with anthropologists who, over the past year, have been talking in depth with our patients about their feelings on these assisted reproductive technologies. Although these conversations are limited in their confinement to the hospital setting, interview format, and absence of long-term relationships, they offer the best perspective we have on the population we are trying to serve. With such a diverse array of individuals in our lively community, we must take every voice into consideration. Nonetheless, it is impossible to please everyone in our quest to set regulations on healthcare. This new policy proposal certainly does not set a unified front for all the voices in our community; But I have worked diligently to address everyone’s concerns in a way that fosters cooperation between different religions and cultures.

The inevitable solution to a situation in which different groups of people have different objectives is to provide most services but restrict their usage. We should provide In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments for our patients. Studies have shown that a small but significant portion of the Jewish and Lebanese Shi’ite communities use IVF as a way to overcome infertility. Though these studies were not conducted in the United States, the anthropologists at Sasquatch hospital have made similar conclusions among the Jewish American and American Lebanese Shi’ite communities. The statement made in Genesis that we should “be fruitful and multiply” has been interpreted by the Jewish community to be a commandment. The Jewish community places an emphasis on reproduction. Additionally, most religious leaders agree that life does not begin at conception. These reasons among others lead to the general acceptance of IVF among Jews (Kahn 2000:3). Shi’ite Islam promotes decision-making through the use of individual thought processes, also known as ijtihad, but practicing Shi’ites also hold the guidance of local religious leaders in high esteem. Most of these leaders have approved of IVF technology provided that certain precautions are taken. Shaikh Fadlallah, one of such religious leaders, and a Sunni religious leader both agreed that IVF is permissible when the gametes are provided by the couple that wishes to conceive through this process (Inhorn, 2006: 111). IVF is valued by important segments of our population, so we need to provide these services to them.

It is important to appeal to our largely Irish Catholic donor base as well because without them, we cannot run this hospital. We should take their perspective into account when making policy influencing pregnancy. We should not subsidize abortion services because doing so would contribute money from donors towards initiatives they do not approve of. Additionally, the Department of Social Services (DSS) in Connecticut funds all abortions that are medically necessary as per Doe v. Maher in 1986. Medical necessity is decided by the physician of a patient. It includes “health care provided to correct or diminish the adverse effects of a medical condition or mental illness; to assist an individual in attaining or maintaining an optimal level of health; to diagnose a condition; or to prevent a medical condition from occurring. (Cohen, 2010: 1). We should fully cooperate with the DSS of Connecticut to allow under-insured patients to receive abortions under conditions where they are medically required.  To reduce instances of abortion and unnecessary killing of what many Catholics deem as life, we should only allow it to be performed in situations when the mother’s or fetus’ life is at risk during the pregnancy (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Alberto Bovone, 1987: 149). In addition to abortions, prenatal testing and amniocentesis are necessary provisions to allow people to exercise precautions in their pregnancy. In particular, members of the Jewish community utilize these resources (Ivry, 2010: 11). Individuals using this service at our hospital would not be able to terminate a pregnancy based on any genetic conditions they discover, however, because under my policy proposal the hospital wouldn’t allow voluntary abortions. Instead, they could use this information to prepare for the consequences of the genetic disease once the child is born. These services would also allow healthcare providers to ensure the health of the fetus and mother during the progression of the pregnancy. The restrictions placed on abortions, prenatal testing, and amniocentesis would appeal to our Irish Catholic donor base, so our hospital can continue to run under their generous financial contributions.

The procedures ascribed to dealing with unused embryos from IVF create another challenge for Sasquatch hospital. Despite the fact that we would be allowing IVF, we need to be respectful of the official Catholic position that life begins at conception. In addition to not subsidizing abortion funds, we should strongly reject any research initiative where embryos are harmed no matter what future result the research could bring. However, we should financially support any study where the embryos are completely unharmed and the research has a clear positive outlook for future patient health. We should also encourage the donation of gametes to couples. Some Jewish and Islamic individuals have been accepting of this process, so we have people that will benefit from this provision (Ivry, 2010: 209-211; Inhorn, 2006: 111). Although I propose to not act in accordance with the official Catholic belief that every child has the right to be raised by his or her parents, donation of gametes should reduce the wasting of unused embryos (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Alberto Bovone, 1987: 158).

In regards to spiritual counseling, it is necessary to make a change in policy. We cannot provide all these assisted reproductive technology services and continue to have a solely Catholic spiritual counseling service. This would send out a conflicted message to our community that we provide these resources, but our staff vehemently discourages patients from using them. Additionally, we need a more diverse group of counselors to allow patients to make informed decisions. Patients should be allowed spiritual and cultural support of their choosing before they make decisions about whether they should use assisted reproductive technology or not. I propose that we incorporate counselors from different disciplines. This should include support that ranges from African American Catholic priests to Japanese cultural advisors. The diversity of opinions should alleviate concerns by doctors that the Catholic spiritual counseling is directly conflicting with their work. While I don’t expect secular doctors to fully support any spiritual counseling, I believe it is important for patients to be able to reach out for religious support when they see fit.

Some staff members may oppose many of the new initiatives I propose to incorporate into our care of patients. If the hospital is going to move in this new direction, we need the full cooperation of all our healthcare staff. Therefore, we should not only provide training programs to teach our current staff how to perform these new procedures, but we should also hold educational sessions to remind the staff that what we are doing is ethical and is best for the community as a whole. If many staff members continue to resist performing these procedures, we should train a group of current staff dedicated solely to performing these procedures and ensuring that patients feel as comfortable as possible during the process.

As the CEO of Sasquatch Hospital, I have proposed a plan here that requires concessions from all members of the community but addresses everyone’s concerns. A situation as dynamic and complex as this one requires oversight and openness to change. It is necessary to assess the satisfaction of the variety of groups affected by our decisions. Therefore, we should reevaluate after a year to see how doctors feel about the change in protocol and if patients are using the services we provide. We should also see if patients are using the spiritual counseling resources in their decision making process. Though we always need to reevaluate, I am confident that the plan proposed here would allow the hospital to address the concerns of the diverse population of Sasquatch, Connecticut.


Analyst, Robin K. Cohen Principal. “STATE PAYMENT FOR ABORTIONS.” STATE PAYMENT FOR ABORTIONS. N.p., 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2017