The new developments of medicine and various sciences (biotechnology, cryogenics, nanotechnology, ++) have brought many new ethical issues that are not easy to deal with by different religions and ideologies. Many religious and secular thinkers are trying to respond to these issues within their own frame of thought and most of the time, there are many stands, even opposing stands, among the followers of the same religion, faith, or ideology. For example there are Christians who strongly promote birth control pills and there are also Christians who think it is a sin to use those pills. Let me list some of these issues: 


1. EUTHANASIA- THIS IS AN ISSUE RELATED TO DEATH- The right to take your life, when you are in a strong pain, or in a vegetable state of life, because of a chronic disease or coma.   The question now is what is death?  Is the stopping of brain functions the moral or legal definition of death?  So when is it right to disconnect the support system of a patient in coma, i.e. to take the life? 


2. SEX CHANGE- This was not possible in the past. Actually many other transplants of organs are also changing the nature.  That is using other people’s kidneys, hearts, etc. Also most of the works of genetics are the same way, for example changing the sex in the fish to increase production, which is being done in Iran. Even the mating of donkeys and horses to breed mules is an old practice in most cultures to the same end of changing nature. The incubators to produce chicken are also “unnatural”.


3. SPERM BANK- Some men donate to a sperm bank. Some women can get sperm from a sperm bank, for example, when their husband is sterile. In Iran many couples used to divorce because of this problem.


4. SURROGATE MOTHERS- If a woman has a problem with her reproductive organs, she can ask another woman to take the sperm of the first woman’s husband through a medical procedure and become pregnant and upon baby’s delivery, to give the child to the original parents. In Iran, many men married a second wife because of this problem. 


5. ABORTION- This is not new. But the new thing is the findings about life before birth. If actually it becomes possible to continue the growth of the fetus outside the woman’s body even in the early months of pregnancy, then abortion would no longer be just a woman body’s issue. Because the baby could still grow outside the woman’s body. So the woman would be able to take the baby out but would not have the right to discard the fetus, even in the first month of pregnancy.   A real problem for secular thinkers and supporters of Pro-Choice!


6. METHODS OF BIRTH CONTROL. Even condoms are banned by some religions.  The above developments are challenging the old concepts to define where LIFE begins. Where DEATH is. What is natural and what is unnatural in a HUMAN BODY (is other person’s kidney in my body unnatural?).




The above are just a few issues that are the results of the new possibilities of new achievements of medicine, science, and technology. The forefront religious and secular thinkers of all different belief systems are facing these new realities. The ready-made or hasty answers to these new realities will not help anybody. For example, in the past it was easy for progressive-minded people to support abortion and condemn anybody opposing it as backward.


Although, I still think the woman should have the right to decide what to do with her body, but I think as far as the baby is concerned, the day the fetus can be raised outside the womb, I do not think the woman would have the right to discard the fetus. Let me also say that these issues are so new for me that I am just thinking out loud and I am far from having made-up my mind on any of them. I just think it is good to hear the different opinions.


There are so many side-issues involved in each one of these cases that I have a hard time to have any definite answer to any of these issues if they come up in my own life. BTW, I have signed the paper in my drivers license which allows the donation of my organs, should I die in an accident.


Sam Ghandchi

May 25, 1994






* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on May 25, 1994.


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