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The Peril and Promise of Medical Technology

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D. Gareth Jones

Medical technology is one of the most powerful forces in the modern world, with enormous opportunities for good. For many in affluent countries, the expectations of what constitutes the good life have been transformed, as neonatal mortality rates have declined, life expectancy has increased, and one disease after another has been defeated. However, it is not an unalloyed blessing, as social patterns have been transformed, family structures have been challenged, and ordinary people as well as health professionals and scientists confront novel ethical dilemmas.
Gareth Jones writes not only as a scientist and bioethicist but also as a Christian. His aim is to make sense of some of the myriad issues encountered in a world dominated by medical technology. These include manipulation at the earliest stages of embryonic human life, through to ageing and attempts at bringing about physical immortality. The perceived power of genes is critically examined, as are claims that morality can be enhanced using technology. The centrality of the brain for making us what we are is sympathetically examined, against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on dualism and physicalism. Acknowledging our ever-increasing dependence upon medical technology, the author explores ways in which we can live in hope rather than fear.

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Foreword by General Editor

Extract

This book makes a major contribution to the debate about ethics and the use of technology in medicine. It addresses a Christian Ethics perspective, critically engaging the theologians who are largely involved in defence of faith positions. It also provides a contribution to the wider philosophical debate in this area. The reason why it is able to do both so well is because Gareth Jones’ focus is on the scientific, technological and caring narratives at the centre of the debate. Hence, with each aspect of the debate he is able to both guide us unerringly through the often complex material and take us to the human heart of ethical decision making. What he finds there is not certainty, but many dif ferent value narratives, even within the Christian religion. Key to ethical decision making is critical engagement of those narratives, taking us beyond a simplistic application of natural law. This enables Jones to look in depth at issues such as the technological enhance- ment of morality, ageing and identity, and humankind’s relationship to technology. His conclusion takes us away from the hyperbole and ‘slippery slopes’ so often evident in the debate in this area, to a hope that is based in rigorous critical dialogue and ref lective and responsible scientific practice. Simon Robinson July 2013

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