Bibi: “Isn’t that what animals are supposed to do? Isn’t it our responsibility to support the needs of human beings?”
Jerry: “But you are my friend! You’re my best friend! We are equally valuable! You should not think of yourself merely as a tool to make me live long or live happily.”
Doctor Snow was concerned about other things: “Let’s not decide so quickly. I am not sure that Jerry can use one of your kidneys, Bibi. People and pigs do not necessarily match.”
Bibi: “What do you mean?”
Dr. Snow: “Pig kidneys are different from human kidneys. Pig kidneys will not work inside human bodies. Pigs and humans are made differently.”
Bibi inquired: “Is it because we have different genes? I read somewhere that differences in the genes inside our bodies make pigs different from other animals.”
Dr. Snow: “That’s right.”
Bibi was insistent: “Can’t you do something about my genes in order to make my kidney work inside Jerry’s body?
Dr. Snow: “Well, some clinics have been studying how to do that but they have not been successful.”
Bibi thought aloud: “That’s too bad. Scientists must work harder.”
Dr. Snow explained: “On the other hand, some people think scientists should not move too fast.”
Bibi: “Do they think my kidney is too small for Jerry? Are they afraid Jerry is going to turn into a pig?
Dr. Snow: “No. They think we should not tinker with our genes because genes are part of God’s design for His creation. We have to respect what God wants.”
Bibi: “I can’t understand that. If we want to avoid people dying of kidney diseases, scientists must move even faster. Surely, God wants to save lives. Lives are more important than genes, are they not? There must be a way to help my best friend.”
Dr. Snow: “I can assure you that we are doing what we can to help Jerry but don’t you agree that we have to consider also what other people think?”
Bibi: “That may be so. But it just does not seem fair that my best friend is dying and I cannot do what seems right in order to keep him alive. There must be something wrong when that’s happening. Don’t you think so?”
Bibi was full of questions in his head: “It also does not seem fair that we are the best of friends but I cannot give Jerry the only gift that can save his life. I wonder what other people think. What do you think, Dr. Snow?”
What do you think?
4. Bioethics for Children
Paraphrasing some of the things that have been said above in order to make them apply to bioethics and to adults as well as children, here are a few lessons that I wish to highlight as a conclusion to this presentation:
Natural curiosity develops bioethical inquiry. Education has to explore that natural curiosity in order to raise questions and issues that are important to the individual and to the whole community.
Bioethics learning is different for each individual. It differs on account of one’s cultural and religious background, one’s upbringing, and a lot of other things. Difference is not something to be despised. On the contrary, difference enriches the totality of our humanity. Difference ought to be encouraged.
People – whether children or adults – realize what things are important through their own experiences. This is how things come to have meaning for them. Lessons must be drawn from each person’s own experiences.
Thinking for oneself is a central aim of bioethics education. Technology is going to advance even faster than it has done in the last few years. Similarly the world is going to change faster. The best way to get people ready for these changes is to make sure that they learn to think for themselves.