Personal Life: When Does it Begin, When Does it End?

Speaker: Categories: Apr 15, 1989


[57min, 40sec / 47min, 48sec]


Does the technology to save or prolong life make its use mandatory, obligatory, optional, or even ethical? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," under what circumstances and at whose discretion?

An even more haunting question is: "If you have the technology, the potential for saving or prolonging life and don't use it, is this tantamount to taking the life of another human~

For most readers, the above questions are recently posed dilemmas. Twenty years ago (and less) these questions were not raised, not confronted, not options. But advances in modern medical science have changed all that and, simultaneously, thrust us into a most curious debate regarding the ethics of saving life!

"In the recent past when a person was ill and approached death, the dying process was relatively short and death followed quickly," comments our April speaker, Dr. Jim Walters. "However, today, modern medical technology allows us to sustain a number of ill people beyond the time that many would wish to die," he continues. [underlining added]

At the other end of life's spectrum we are posed with another dilemma. Dr. Walters adds: "Regarding the severely handicapped newborns, we are able to sustain many who would have formerly died. If, as the right to life advocates would have it, merely genetic, human life is that which is important, why don't we sustain even anencephalic infants?"


Dr. James Walters is a graduate of Southern College (B. A., 1968). He holds advanced degrees from Andrews University (M.Div., 1979), and Claremont Graduate School (M.A., 1978; Ph.D., 1979). His doctoral dissertation was entitled: "The Ethics of Martin Buber: a Theological and Philosophical Analysis."

He has served as a pastor in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, 1970-73, and in the Southern California Conference, 1976-80. He joined the faculty of Loma Linda University in 1980 where he is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics.

He is co-founder of the Center for Christian Bioethics at Loma Linda University, 1983, where he has been associate director since 1985.

He is an active member of the LLU University church and of the Association of Adventist FORUMS where he c haired the AAF Taskforce on Church Structure, 1981-83.

Dr. Walters is widely published as illustrated by the following book titles: Theological Bibliography of the SDA Theological Seminary, 1970, co-edited with Sakae Kubo and Charles Sandefur; Living Is Loving: Relationships Matter Most, 1985; Bioethics Today, a New Ethical Vision, 1988; Christians Ponder War: Options in Nuclear Ethics, to be published April, 1989; and The Active Euthanasia Debate, accepted for publication.

He has more than a score of essays to his credit and a variety of articles published in Seventh-day Adventist journals with such titles as: "The Problem of Doormat Theology," 1981; "An Experiment in Love," 1981; "Freedom of Choice," 1981; "What is Loma Linda Doing with Anencephalic Babies?" 1988; and, in the most recent issue of the Adventist Review, "Vegetarian Hospitals - the Swinging Pendulum."

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