Bioethics Blogs

Planned Parenthood and the moral standing of the medical profession

Last week I wrote about the idea that the acceptance of a set of objective moral standards is essential to physicians being members of a profession rather than simply being technicians. I discussed how violation of the long-standing Hippocratic prohibition of euthanasia leads to a degradation of medicine as a profession. This week Planned Parenthood has been in the news because of the distribution on the Internet of some videos implicating the organization in the sale of body parts of aborted fetuses. The first video shows a physician who performs abortions for Planned Parenthood discussing how the process of doing the abortion can be tailored to the retrieval of intact organs for use in research and the importance of knowing in advance what tissues are desired so that the procedure can be planned appropriately. She also discusses what the cost is to those who are receiving the specimens. None of this is actually new. In spite of the moral objections of many of us in our society, fetal tissue obtained from aborted fetuses has been used in research for quite a long time. It is not a surprise that there is a cost associated with obtaining fetal tissue specimens; which is, of course, accounted for as the cost of processing and shipping the specimens and not as a price for the sale of body parts. The video just makes the issue less abstract and confronts us with the reality of what is being done.

This focus on what is being done by Planned Parenthood provides another example of how the moral standing medical profession is undermined by the violation of one of the boundaries of medicine set by the Hippocratic tradition.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.