Law, Religion and Biomedicine: Consensus or Conflict?
The University of Sydney Law School
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 06/12
Macquarie Law Symposium - Law, Religion and Medical Science, Vol. 1, pp. 59-66, 2006
This short paper provides a critique of the argument that the Judeo-Christian tradition embodies broadly shared norms that can be used to guide the law's increasingly pervasive regulation of biomedicine. The role of religion in biomedical governance is seen most clearly in the activities of the American religious right, which seeks to compete for influence in the political and legal arena, and to institutionalise its own sincerely-felt ("morally right") views. This "moral politics" approach can be contrasted with the "personal morality" view in which religion avoids intruding into the political and legal realm, and seeks to appeal primarily to personal conscience. While suggesting that majoritarian Christian Churches are unlikely to step back from attempts to influence law to "do the right thing", I argue that those churches nevertheless represent special interest in the sense that consensus over the core beliefs that shape responses to bioethics and biomedicine is more apparent than real.
Finally, I point to the sharp contrast between religion's overriding interest in "life", and its investment in "culture of life" issues because these are seen as being self-evidently "moral" ones, and religion's comparative lack of interest in what is required for a "healthy life". I argue that the challenge remains for religion to be a resource for public health, as well as responding to the curious collection of issues that have come to be grouped under the umbrella term of "bioethics". This contribution was part of an Australian symposium on law, religion and medical science.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 10
Keywords: biomedicine, bioethics, religion, regulation, morality
JEL Classification: I1, K32, K39
Date posted: August 15, 2006