Dealing with bioethical dilemmas: a survey and analysis of responses from ministers in the Reformed Churches in South Africa05 February 2014
Recent technological advancements in Bioethics have been rapid and incremental, leaving little time for Christian ethicists to reflect or develop a coherent methodological approach. To assess the situation in the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA), a bioethical questionnaire was developed and administered during the synod in 2009. Three practical questions served as point of departure, viz. which bioethical issues confronted ministers in their work environment, which value judgement trends are evident when counselling members of their congregations and what theoretical frameworks or resources do they call upon when reflecting on these difficult situations? The survey consisted of 19 questions with several subquestions that sought demographic information to determine the population and information about bioethical issues confronting them, methodological strategies they apply and how they think they can contribute to the resolution of any such bioethical dilemmas. The results were tabulated and it was concluded that recent advancements in biotechnology cannot be ignored or dealt with in a piecemeal fashion any longer, either by the RCSA or its ministers. The need for clarity and analysis of the principles underlying those theories that guide or should guide their decision-making and pastoral care in dealing with bioethical dilemmas was emphasised. The findings highlighted the need for appropriate courses in Bioethics to be taught during initial theological training, as well as the need to keep the debate alive by offering workshops, seminars and short courses for practicing ministers to enhance awareness and allay fears and uncertainties in this very dynamic and morally challenging field of human and scientific endeavour.