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The Peril and Promise of Medical Technology


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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This book follows on from a number of previous ones, all of which have dealt in their various ways with the interplay of biomedical technology and Christian faith. Coming back once more to this topic area demonstrates a number of things. There are no definitive answers that will provide last- ing guidance or assured answers. The reason for this may lie in the nature of the Christian faith or possibly ref lect my own approach to these issues. However, I do not think this is an adequate response. The issues themselves are changing, the technology is always on the move, and therefore the debates are undergoing modification from one year to the next. Of course, one could get around this relentless change by simply asserting that this or that technological intrusion is to be opposed; if we lived in an ideal world they would be prohibited, and even if that is not the world in which we live, we ourselves should be resolutely opposed to them. It is not dif ficult to find groups who adopt exactly this position, with the result that books emanating from them will adopt precisely the same viewpoint today as they would have done in the 1980s. Generally, they will find little need to delve into the pros and cons of new technological developments, since their stance will be known in advance. These comments should not be interpreted to suggest that the debate is going around in circles and getting nowhere. The parameters are shifting,...

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