Religion and the body in medical research

- Kennedy Inst Ethics J
Author/s: -Campbell, C. S.
Journal: Kennedy Inst Ethics J
Year: 1998
Volume: 8
Issue: 3
Pages: 275-305

Religious discussion of human organs and tissues has concentrated largely on donation for therapeutic purposes. The retrieval and use of human tissue samples in diagnostic, research, and education contexts have, by contrast, received very little direct theological attention. Initially undertaken at the behest of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, this essay seeks to explore the theological and religious questions embedded in nontherapeutic use of human tissue. It finds that the “donation paradigm” typically invoked in religious discourse to justify uses of the body for therapeutic reasons is inadequate in the context of nontherapeutic research, while the “resource paradigm” implicit in scientific discourse presumes a reductionist account of the body that runs contrary to important religious values about embodiment. The essay proposes a “contribution paradigm” that provides a religious perspective within which research on human tissue can be both justified and limited.