Presbyterian Church USA

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Official website: http://www.pcusa.org/

Beginning of Life

Abortion

Official Statement: From Denominational Page "Abortion Issues."[1] See the following resources: Problem Pregnancies and Abortion[2]; Problem Pregnancies: Toward a Responsible Decision[3]

"the artificial or induced termination of a pregnancy is a matter of careful ethical decision of the patient . . . and therefore should not be restricted by law . . ." (Minutes of the 182nd General Assembly (1970), United Presbyterian Church in the USA., p. 891[4])

Position on Problem Pregnancies

"When an individual woman faces the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy, the issue is intensely personal, and may manifest itself in ways that do not reflect public rhetoric, or do not fit neatly into medical, legal, or policy guidelines. Humans are empowered by the spirit prayerfully to make significant moral choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy. Human choices should not be made in a moral vacuum, but must be based on Scripture, faith, and Christian ethics. For any choice, we are accountable to God; however, even when we err, God offers to forgive us." (Minutes of the 217th General Assembly (2006), Presbyterian Church (USA), p. 905[5])[6]
"The church has a responsibility to provide public witness and to offer guidance, counsel, and support to those who make or interpret laws and public policies about abortion and problem pregnancies. Pastors have a duty to counsel with and pray for those who face decisions about problem pregnancies. Congregations have a duty to pray for and support those who face these choices, to offer support for women and families to help make unwanted pregnancies less likely to occur, and to provide practical support for those facing the birth of a child with medical anomalies, birth after rape or incest, or those who face health, economic, or other stresses. The church also affirms the value of children and the importance of nurturing, protecting, and advocating their well-being. The church, therefore, appreciates the challenge each woman and family face when issues of personal well-being arise in the later stages of a pregnancy.
In life and death, we belong to God.” Life is a gift from God. We may not know exactly when human life begins, and have but an imperfect understanding of God as the giver of life and of our own human existence, yet we recognize that life is precious to God, and we should preserve and protect it. We derive our understanding of human life from Scripture and the Reformed Tradition in light of science, human experience, and reason guided by the Holy Spirit. Because we are made in the image of God, human beings are moral agents, endowed by the Creator with the capacity to make choices. Our Reformed Tradition recognizes that people do not always make moral choices, and forgiveness is central to our faith. In the Reformed Tradition, we affirm that God is the only Lord of conscience-not the state or the church. As a community, the church challenges the faithful to exercise their moral agency responsibly." (Minutes of the 217th General Assembly (2006), Presbyterian Church (USA), p. 905[7])[8]
"We affirm that the lives of viable unborn babies—those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered — ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted. In cases where problems of life or health of the mother arise in a pregnancy, the church supports efforts to protect the life and health of both the mother and the baby. When late-term pregnancies must be terminated, we urge decisions intended to deliver the baby alive. We look to our churches to provide pastoral and tangible support to women in problem pregnancies and to surround these families with a community of care. We affirm adoption as a provision for women who deliver children they are not able to care for, and ask our churches to assist in seeking loving, Christian, adoptive families. This General Assembly holds this statement as its position on a Christian response to problems that arise late in pregnancies. We find it to be consistent with current General Assembly policy on Problem Pregnancies and Abortion (1992), and supersedes General Assembly statements of 2002 and 2003 on late-term pregnancies and abortion." (Minutes of the 217th General Assembly (2006), Presbyterian Church (USA), p. 905[9])
"There is [both] agreement and disagreement on the basic issue of abortion. The committee [on problem pregnancies and abortion] agreed that there are no biblical texts that speak expressly to the topic of abortion, but that taken in their totality the Holy Scriptures are filled with messages that advocate respect for the woman and child before and after birth. Therefore the Presbyterian Church (USA) encourages an atmosphere of open debate and mutual respect for a variety of opinions concerning the issues related to problem pregnancies and abortion." (Minutes of the 204th General Assembly (1992), Presbyterian Church (USA), p. 367-368, 372-374[10])
"We are disturbed by abortions that seem to be elected only as a convenience or ease embarrassment. We affirm that abortion should not be used as a method of birth control."
"Abortion is not morally acceptable for gender selection only or solely to obtain fetal parts for transplantation."
"We reject the use of violence and/or abusive language either in protest of or in support of abortion . . ."
"The strong Christian presumption is that since all life is precious to God, we are to preserve and protect it. Abortion ought to be an option of last resort . . ."
"The Christian community must be concerned about and address the circumstances that bring a woman to consider abortion as the best available option. Poverty, unjust societal realities, sexism, racism, and inadequate supportive relationships may render a woman virtually powerless to choose freely." (Minutes of the 204th General Assembly (1992), Presbyterian Church (USA), p. 367-368, 372-374[11])

Contraception

Official Statement:

"We affirm that abortion should not be used as a method of birth control." ("The Covenant of Life and the Caring Community"[12])

Infertility & Reproduction

Reproductive Technology

Official Statement: See "The Covenant of Life and the Caring Community"[13]

Healthcare & Medicine

Access to Healthcare

Official Statement: See 1991 Resolution on "Christian Responsibility And A National Medical Plan"[14]; and 1988 Policy Statement "Life Abundant: Values, Choices and Health Care"[15]


Science & Technology

Genetic Ethics

Gender Selection

Official Statement:

"Abortion is not morally acceptable for gender selection only or solely to obtain fetal parts for transplantation." (Minutes of the 204th General Assembly (1992), Presbyterian Church (USA), p. 367-368, 372-374[16])


End of Life

See "In Life and in Death We Belong to God: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and End-of-Life Issues"[17]

Definition of Death

Official Statements: from "In Life and in Death We Belong to God: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and End-of-Life Issues"[18]

" While not technically part of our consideration of euthanasia, the matter of determining when death occurs is an important related issue. There are circumstances in which taking life or allowing to die can be confused with acknowledging death, as when the use of a respirator for a comatose patient is discontinued. The act could constitute taking life, allowing to die, or acknowledging death depending upon the condition of the patient. If it were either of the first two possibilities, it would be subject to analysis in terms already provided. Here we need to indicate what is involved if the third possibility, acknowledging death obtains. To determine when death occurs is a subtle admixture of medical and philosophical or theological judgment. On the basis of our earlier discussion of the relational character of human life, our theological judgment is that death occurs where the capacity for such relationships is irretrievably lost. The related medical judgment is that such capacity is lost when cerebral function is lost. Traditionally, the most readily evident signs of lost cerebral function have been lost heart and lung function. Modern medical technology complicates the picture, however, since heart and lung function can sometimes be supported by the use of a respirator. In such a situation, the question is whether any determination can be made about cerebral function. Through the use of electroencephalogram and possibly other tests of responsiveness and reflexes, judgments about whether cerebral function is present or not can be made. If judged to have been irretrievably lost, the individual is properly determined to be dead." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[19])

Extraordinary Measures

Official Statements: from "In Life and in Death We Belong to God: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and End-of-Life Issues"[20]

"Entailed in this commitment to accompany dying patients is a readiness to undertake medical treatment that will prolong dying if requested by patients, assuming their competence. Perhaps most often in the situation of dying, the person will be unable to make judgments or requests of this sort. Here, where doctors and guardians are necessarily entrusted with the decision, no moral obligation to treat the dying patient exists. However, if a patient is able to and does make a request for so-called heroic medical measures, even against

the best medical judgment, it would be a failure of readiness to support and accompany to refuse such a request. Obviously this response assumes that the requested treatment does not portend a more harmful result for the patient than already experienced; nor does responsiveness to such a request preclude careful review with the patient of the medical judgment and even the theological implications to enable the patient to better grasp the rationale for not prolonging dying. Nevertheless, the medical judgments involved are human and therefore fallible. With due explanation and discussion, it would not be appropriate to refuse request for treatment from the patient." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[21])

"It should go without saying that should the medical indications suggest that the person is not in a condition of dying, then the obligation to protect includes the obligation to treat medically to the maximum extent possible. Such a severe, even terminal, but non-dying medical condition does not change the normal implication of out obligation to protect from harm. Here not to intervene medically constitutes a clear violation of the obligation to protect." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[22])

Physician-Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia

Official Statement: from "In Life and in Death We Belong to God: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and End-of-Life Issues"[23]

"The topic of euthanasia is complicated by the fact that one term is often applied to quite different kinds of circumstances. Therefore it is important at the outset to make a fundamental distinction between taking life (sometimes referred to as active euthanasia) and allowing to die (sometimes referred to as passive euthanasia). Our consideration of each of these matters will be carried out in terms of the framework utilized in the discussion of abortions." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[24])
"Active euthanasia is a question that arises in situations of medical extremity where it is thought that an individual is beyond the reach of medical care. Some have at least posed the question of whether the most humane treatment might be to terminate life. However, the dominant value of respect for human life and its accompanying obligations to do no harm and to protect from harm establish a clear prejudice against such direct taking of life. The only relevant question for us is whether there is a conceivable conflict between these obligations. Once again it is also necessary to formulate a judgment about which obligation is more expressive of respect for life if conflict is seen to exist" ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[25])
"Active euthanasia is extremely difficult to defend morally. There are, however, extreme circumstances in which we may have to at least raise the question of a fundamental conflict of obligations. There is an analogy between such cases of active euthanasia and abortions, questions that are based on the circumstances of the fetus. There is an accompanying prejudice against the taking of life in both cases, since the conflict between doing no harm and protecting from harm has reference to one and the same individual. The ambiguity of this situation serves to reinforce what has already been said about cautious and consultative decision-making." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[26])

Withholding & Withdrawing Treatment

Official Statement: from "In Life and in Death We Belong to God: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and End-of-Life Issues"[27]

"The question is basically whether medical interventions should be made or continued, or whether the person should be allowed to die as a result of the medical condition. The moral question posed here is not whether two obligations are in conflict. It is rather the question of what constitutes the fulfillment of the obligation to protect from harm. In allowing to die, one is not active but passive. It follows that the activity of doing harm cannot be attributed to the passive procedure of not intervening. Thus we are not confronted with a conflict between obligations to do no harm and to protect from harm. Rather, we are confronted with the question of what our obligation to protect from harm means in such circumstances. In one sense, every medical intervention represents a decision not to allow a person to die. Therefore, it would appear that normally we assume that the obligation to protect from harmmeans that we do not allow people to die if we can do something about it. Yet a further distinction is relevant just at this point. When we speak of not allowing a person to die, we usually mean that we are prolonging their life. However, there is a difference between prolonging life and prolonging dying. If the effect of a

given intervention is not to prolong life, but to prolong dying, then we cannot claim that we have protected human life from harm by the intervention. Our earlier discussion of the finite character of human life makes plain that death is not always to be understood as a harm. Where dying is judged imminent and inevitable, death is not a harm from which we can conceivably be protected. Hence, there can be no obligation to protect from this event." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[28])

"Thus the fundamental judgment that has to be made in the matter of passive euthanasia is whether the person in question is dying or not. This is not the same thing as asking whether a patient is terminal. A person with a certain form of cancer may clearly be terminal, but this does not necessarily mean that the individual is confronted by impending death. The dying condition obtains when it becomes apparent that no available medical treatment will reduce the disability or improve the capabilities of a terminal patient facing impending death. The effect of medical treatment in this case cannot be to prolong life, but at most to prolong dying by marginally forestalling impending death. The determination of the condition of dying is fundamentally a medical judgment that will need to be rendered by qualified medical personnel. Once the judgment is made, the situation can be analyzed in terms of our obligation to protect from harm.
In such a situation the obligation to protect human life from harm does not require us to treat the condition that is leading to death. On the other hand, it does require us to accompany and care for persons in every relevant way. Certainly it obliges us not to abandon persons, leaving them to die alone. Instead, protection from harm means that we will remain with them, offering company and support as they confront the inevitable implication of their own finitude. Additionally, medical treatment designed to relieve pain and make persons more comfortable would continue to be very much in order. Entailed in this commitment to accompany dying patients is a readiness to undertake medical treatment that will prolong dying if requested by patients, assuming their competence. Perhaps most often in the situation of dying, the person will be unable to make judgments or requests of this sort. Here, where doctors and guardians are necessarily entrusted with the decision, no moral obligation to treat the dying patient exists." ("The Nature and Value of Human Life"[29])


Notes

  1. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  2. http://www.pcusa.org/resource/problem-pregnancies-and-abortion/
  3. http://www.pcusa.org/resource/problem-pregnancies-toward-responsible-decision/
  4. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  5. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/oga/publications/journal2006.pdf
  6. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  7. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/oga/publications/journal2006.pdf
  8. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  9. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  10. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  11. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  12. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/_resolutions/covenant-of-life-and-covenant-and-creation.pdf
  13. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/_resolutions/covenant-of-life-and-covenant-and-creation.pdf
  14. http://www.pcusa.org/resource/resolution-christian-responsibility-and-national-m/
  15. http://www.pcusa.org/resource/life-abundant-values-choices-and-health-care/
  16. http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/101/abortion-issues/
  17. http://www.pcusa.org/resource/paper-life-and-death-we-belong-god-euthanasia-assi/
  18. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  19. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  20. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  21. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  22. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  23. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  24. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  25. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  26. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  27. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  28. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
  29. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/inlifeanddeath.pdf
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