Mormonism, medicine, and bioethics

New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press (2021)
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Books have their origins in conversations and seek to extend and expand those conversations over time and with different audiences. The conversations that have culminated in this book were initially stimulated through a research project at The Hastings Center on the role of religious voices in the professional fields of bioethical inquiry. Those professional conversations have continued throughout my academic career as a member of various institutional ethics committees, organizational ethics task forces, and in local, state, and national public policy settings. The professional context of bioethics conversations can sometimes miss the richness of conversations that occur in the classroom and with various communities, including family members, friends, and religious and civic communities. These conversations provide an experiential depth, a groundedness in the lives and stories of persons, which augments and corrects the professionalized perspectives. I have been particularly fortunate and appreciative of opportunities to bridge the academic and professional with the personalized and communal through conversations about the ethical commitments and moral culture cultivated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon). I was invited to develop an overview essay on "Bioethics in Mormonism" for the professional reference work, Encyclopedia of Bioethics (3rd ed., 2004), and some years later received my first invitation to make a presentation on "LDS Ethics" in an academic setting at the University of Virginia. This book is the outgrowth of these many conversations and seeks to advance my communal bridging. My aim in this book is to begin bridging these various intersections between the LDS religious community and its moral culture, the professional fields of bioethics, and practical decision-making. This work seeks to be a catalyst for expanding discourse within the interdisciplinary field of Mormon studies to include ethics and bioethics. Ethics has not been a well-developed area in Mormon studies, in contrast to studies in LDS history, theology, or literature. To remedy this oversight, I present a substantive interpretation of the sources, theological background, and moral principles of LDS ethics. The historical narratives and conceptual intertwining I offer of both bioethics and of LDS moral culture is intended to complement and expand the realm of Mormon studies. A further objective is to create opportunities for reciprocal dialogues between the bioethics community and LDS scholarship. This conversation has yet to occur within academic disciplines, professional communities, or in public policy deliberations. My exposition, analysis, and critiques will intertwine and contextualize LDS moral values and health care practices within the ethical inquiry undertaken in the broader professional scholarship of bioethics. My arguments will disclose some points of common ground as well as areas of divergence towards the end of establishing the LDS faith tradition as a community of moral discourse for the bioethics field and the healing professions (medicine, nursing, pharmacy, etc.) it informs. My claim is that given its emerging cultural prominence, LDS ethical scholarship should engage in bioethical literacy and bioethics should be LDS-literate. I am also engaged in an effort to initiate more reflective dialogues regarding LDS ethics and moral culture among LDS scholars, LDS health care professionals, and the interested general LDS reader. The focus of the book on the interrelationship of religion, ethics, medicine, and health care should present for these various audiences new opportunities for mindful reflection and creative scholarship on the ethical implications of faith commitments, the responsibilities of the healing professions, and religious dimensions of public policy and public bioethics. A religious community that is formed through narratives and practices of covenantal commitments of love of neighbor needs to have a robust discourse about its ethical character. I have understood my scholarship in biomedical ethics and in religious ethics through a linking metaphor of my moral culture, of medicine, and the law, of bearing witness. The witness offers moral realities, moral truths about the way things are, vocalizes and embodies moral experience, and prophetically critiques the hypocrisies of the powerful and their oppression of the vulnerable by offering a new story, a re-storying, of tradition and conventional practice.



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