| BioEdge | Sunday, March 26, 2017
What does Catholicism say about vaccination?
In a target article in the latest edition of the American Journal of Bioethics, two ethicists argue from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) that parents have a duty to vaccinate their children.
Paul J. Carson and Anthony T. Flood of North Dakota State University invoke principles of CST such as “solidarity” and “the common good” to justify mandatory immunisation, arguing that adherents of Roman Catholicism have a social duty to help society achieve herd immunity.
“In the context of vaccination, these principles and values entail a duty to vaccinate. By not vaccinating ourselves and our children, we forsake solidarity with our neighbors and commitment to the common good...refusing vaccination violates the requirements of personal justice insofar as the act fails to give others their due...if a minimal risk on our part greatly decreases the health risks of the vulnerable, we owe it to them to do so.”
Flood and Carson also suggest that the requirements of “distributive justice” demand that Catholics have their children vaccinated.
“The protection against serious infectious diseases constitutes a good that requires a just distribution across society. The vulnerable have a just claim to this good and that entails that those who can receive vaccines should do so.”Several response articles to the paper discuss the importance of trust in the Christian tradition and in the doctor-patient relationship.
A number of the eminences of Silicon Valley are besotted with immortality. Google, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are a just a few names amongst the many who want to do away with death, or at least add a few decades, or even a few hundred years, to their lifespans.
Even if this is achievable, is this desirable?
British sci-fi author and futurist Paul Graham Raven has written a blistering demolition of the transhumanist project. (Hat-tip to Wired.) It is basically a philosophy for selfish (and mostly white) rich guys, he suggests.
it turns out that technologies which extend, augment or otherwise improve human life are already here! You may have heard of some of them: clean water; urban sanitation; smokeless cooking facilities; free access to healthcare; a guaranteed minimum income; a good, free education. There are more – and you’d be surprised how many of them have been around in one form or another for decades, even centuries! But they’re unevenly distributed at the moment, so the first agenda item for all transhumanists should be looking for ways to get these technologies to everyone on the planet as soon as possible
But that is unlikely to happen. In their single-minded focus on maximising their own welfare, dedicated transhumanists are deaf to the needs of the society: “You look after yourself, I’ll look after me; what could be fairer than that?” Raven writes caustically. Come to think of it, this critique of personal autonomy could be applied to a number of other areas in bioethics.
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Catholic social teaching and the duty to vaccinate