Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
What Etheredge is saying makes perfect sense. Either the human person is a created word that demands absolute respect or it is a thing to be manipulated for utilitarian purposes. There is really no middle ground.
The human person is always a person in relation. Persons are thus called to be conceived by spousal union. This union is in harmony with the action of God the creator of the word. It is thus unethical for persons to be created by means of technology outside of the spousal union. The spousal union is intended as relational and loving and it is fitting for the child so conceived to grow by means of such relations and, of course, the on-going relationship with God.
Bioethics these days is a secular discipline focused on biology. But, says Etheredge, the human person is a transcendent being. So it is entirely appropriate for there to be a chapter in this book on metaphysics: something not to be found in most works of bioethics.
Bioethics is not an abstract discipline. It should always be seen in the context of living out the vocation to marriage. What Etheredge has succeeded in doing so well is to argue the case for created beings as mysteries of divine action. We are biologically, psychologically, socially and spiritually what we are from conception and we are persons. Does that not resonate with the call for those of us in health care to adopt a holistic approach?
That Etheredge has given us good and even excellent reasons to respect human persons from conception is without doubt. What then are we to do with so-called "spare embryos"? It is my view that orthodox Catholics are going to come to different conclusions on this issue. Etheredge puts forward powerful arguments in favour of embryo adoption. The way it was conceived was, after all, hardly the fault of the embryo. Surely, it is reasonable for the embryo to enter into relationship? My own equally sincerely held view is that a tragedy has already ensued when its conception took place and little can be done to undo that tragedy. Humanae Vitae taught clearly, and Etheredge would certainly agree, that spousal union is the only morally sound means of conceiving and continuing in relationship with the other.
All in all, a brilliant work, combining ethical soundness with spiritual uplift. Thoroughly enjoyable and should be read by all, not just specialists, whatever that word means these days.