God should decide

This is a really sad news story about a little boy whose life hangs in the balance. Doctors have told a high court judge that they think it’s in the child’s best interest to end life support treatment whereas Isaiah’s parents want treatment to continue.

Isaiah Haastrup court case

This is a debate we see in the news time and time again, and it links to our learning about Religion and Life – who decides when life should end?

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Gender Selection

Model and former Miss GB Danielle Lloyd has spoken to BBC 5 Live about how she might go to Cyprus so she can select the gender of her next child. Ms Lloyd has four sons and dreams of a little girl.

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In the UK the treatment she wants is illegal, to choose the gender of the embryo, so she will need to travel to Cyprus to do the procedure which is a bit like IVF.

Christianity Today in 2005 reported this type of treatment with the headline, Gender is No Disease. It explained how pro-life Christians who already shudder at the deliberate destruction of any embryo would now feel that the application of this search-and-destroy technique to gender selection just adds a new and frightening dimension to reproductive technology. In the same year the Guardian reported on debates in the British Houses of Parliament. The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, said:

“The Church of England would oppose strongly any proposals that tend to erode proper priority for the welfare of the child or that embrace a view of children as consumer commodities. Sex selection for social reasons would have serious consequences for society as well as for families. From a Christian perspective, the child is a gift from God and should always be regarded as an individual, not as an extension of parental consumer choice. Parents need to be left to receive and accept their children just as they are, not be led into believing they can select children as they would a customised personal accessory.”

The journal Scientific Reports shows that human caused climate change is affecting extreme weather

The 2016 AQA Religion and Life paper asked what problems were caused by climate change and today’s article in the Guardian underlines the way that weather patterns such as heatwaves, droughts and floods across the world had the fingerprint of climate change on them.

Large scale wind patterns are largely driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. But global warming is altering this difference because the Arctic is heating up faster than lower latitudes and because land areas are heating up faster than the oceans.

“It is not just a problem of nature conservation or polar bears, it is about a threat to human society that comes from these rapid changes,” he said. “This is because it hits us with increasing extreme events in the highly populated centres in the mid-latitudes. It also affects us through sea level rise, which is hitting shores globally. So these changes that are going on in the Arctic should concern everyone.”

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Linking climate change to extreme weather in a Religious Studies exam is a canny move, as you can then refer to its impact on people. Christians might be concerned as we’re born in God’s image; that the Parable of the Good Samaritan showed to Love thy Neighbour; that the Golden Rule wants us to do unto others as we would have them do to you; and that we should protect life as all life is sacred and holy (sanctity of life). Buddhists might be worried too about the extreme weather’s impact on people because the first precept is to not harm; they are concerned about metta (kindness); as well as compassion to others.

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Why are people protesting against abortion in the UK?

Notice: Graphic abortion images ahead. That is what the notice might say just before you walk past a Pro-Life protest outside places like the Department of Health’s headquarters. The protestors are expressing their strong beliefs that abortion is wrong and that the 1967 Abortion Act should be overturned to make abortion completely illegal again in the UK.

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A number of pro-life protestors have spoken to a Guardian journalist to explain why they feel the need to protest.

“It was never a choice that I turned from [pro-choice] to [anti-abortion]. I’m a Christian and God got me involved.”

“I found out that we were losing 800 human lives per working day in this country to abortion,” she recalls. “It galvanised me to try to help as many more women as I could, and try to save as many more little lives as I could.”

…”being engaged in Christian ministry, having met a number of folks who’ve experienced the trauma of abortion, I believe abortion is far more traumatic than [going through with an unplanned pregnancy] to a woman later in life reflecting back on the choice she’s made.”

Italian DJ travelled to Switzerland for the Right To Die

Mr Antoniani, an Italian DJ, was left blind and tetraplegic by car crash in 2014. The DJ dropped his phone while driving and smashed into the car in front of him as he tried to pick it up.  He appealed to Italy President Sergio Mattarella for the right to die, and shortly before his death, criticised the country for failing to pass laws allowing him to do so.

“Finally I am in Switzerland and, unfortunately, I got here on my own and not with the help of my country,” he said, in a message posted on social media shortly before his death. Euthanasia is illegal in Italy, a traditionally Catholic country, but the law upholds a patient’s right to refuse care.

Those people who support Mr Antoniani said he should have been allowed to die in Italy with dignity. The BBC also reported on how his story opened up much debate in Italy.

Alcoholic Chose Euthanasia to End Life

The brother of 41 year old Marcel, an alcoholic in the Netherlands, has spoken to the BBC about how his brother chose to die and how the euthanasia laws in the Netherlands helped him do so. He was able to legally have someone end his life as part of the Dutch laws on Euthanasia which state it is lawful for people with “unbearable suffering” and no prospect of improvement.

Ethical Concerns for Three Person Baby

There are concerns that countries with less stringent laws are using scientific advancements for three person babies not as a means to help couples get pregnant without the presence of certain genetic diseases, but instead simply to boost fertility in places like the Ukraine.

We appear to be in a race to the bottom,” warned Dr Marcy Darnovsky from the US Centre for Genetics and Society. Criticising doctors offering the technique, she added: “They are ignoring ongoing policy debates and conducting dangerous and socially fraught experiments on mothers and children. And they appear to be actively seeking a media splash on the way down. Use of these biologically extreme procedures for infertility is based purely on speculation.”