Tatiana Shchyttsova: Respect the right of every human life to be a surprise for oneself (Photo)

Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus Information Service

How compatible are the development of biotechnology and human dignity, and what will win?

As a part of “Imagining Belarus: ideas and images for common future”, organized by the Flying University and the International Consortium “EuroBelarus”, Tatiana Shchyttsova, philosopher, professor of the Department of Social and Political Science of the European Humanities University (Vilnius) held a public lecture “Moral heuristics of biotechnological development”.

The expert believes that today we can discuss not a new version of the concept of a moral subject, but, above all, the redefinition of the sanctity.

“Sacred vessel” or fragmented components of the body?

Tatiana Shchyttsova began her lecture with a description of the case Moore v. Regents of the University of California. This case occurred in 1990. It dealt with the issue of property rights to one's own cells taken in samples by doctors or researchers. In 1976, John Moore was treated for hairy cell leukemia by physician David Golde, a cancer researcher. Moore's cancer cells were later developed into a cell line that was commercialized. The California Supreme Court ruled that a hospital patient's discarded blood and tissue samples are not his personal property and that individuals do not have rights to a share in the profits earned from commercial products or research derived from their cells. At the trial there were two judges: the liberal judge argued that Moore has the right to have an income created by the cell line discovery, and the conservative one claimed that “the plaintiff wants to compare the human vessel — the only object that enjoys the highest esteem and protection in all civilized societies — with commercial goods.”

Modern life sciences render the fragmented body materials valuable rather than the body itself. In this context, the definition of a person as a certain unity is absolutely irrelevant. Thus, we can conclude that there is a conflict of humanistic individualism and a new biotechnological approach.

Collapse of practical dualism

The opposition of subject and object forms the basis of practical dualism. The first trend stated that a person is a part of the nature (natural science object, medicine, etc.). The second trend is linked to the principle of subjectivity (moral autonomy, the integrity of every human individual, human consciousness).

In the era of biotechnology practical dualism collapses, because, on the one hand, biotechnology controls the human nature as an object of study, but the same human nature can be understood as a natural basis of a person and subjectivity.

The doctrine of the sanctity of life: “for” or “against”?

Present concerns indicate the danger of desacralisation of things that had a sacred status.

So is it possible for the biotechnology and human dignity to co-exist? The only country that managed to do it right now is Germany.

The movements of pro-life and pro-choice illustrate the confrontation of these positions. The leitmotif of the discussions between them today is the statement that the recognition of the sanctity of life may be justified only by religion, thus the doctrine can not be universal moral for the society.

The main idea of the Tatiana Shchyttsova’s lecture was “Respect the right of every human life to be a surprise for oneself.”