Revision test for the Edexcel syllabus on Medical Ethics – Beginning of Life Issues

THESE QUESTIONS ARE BASED ON THE COURSE NOTES FOR THE ABOVE TOPIC THAT CAN BE FOUND HERE, HERE and HERE.

THIS TEST (AND MANY OF THE OTHERS ON THIS SITE) MAY ALSO BE OF USE TO STUDENTS FOLLOWING OTHER ADVANCED LEVEL RELIGIOUS STUDIES COURSES.

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FOR THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS, SCROLL DOWN TO THE END OF THIS BLOG ENTRY.

  1. Which of the following is probably the most accurate definition of abortion?

a. Killing an unborn baby.

b. Killing a potential human being.

c. Expulsion of the fetus from the womb.

d. Expulsion of a human life.

e. An action which violates the principle of the Sanctity of Life.

2. TRUE or FALSE? Before permission for an abortion may be granted, the approval of two doctors is required in the UK, who will typically consider whether the physical or mental health of the prospective mother is at risk, the effect of the pregnancy on her existing family, and the possibility that the child will be born handicapped.

3. TRUE or FALSE? Abortion was legalised in the UK in 1966 and in the USA in 1973.

4. In the UK it is usually illegal to perform an abortion when after how many weeks of pregnancy?

a. 28

b. 24

c. 12

d. 21

5. TRUE or FALSE: The brain of a fetus is insufficiently developed for it to feel pain until around the 16th week of the pregnancy.

6. The primitive streak, the groove in the embryo that marks the beginning of its transformation into a human form appears after….

a. 4 days

b. 10 days

c. 6 days

d. 14 days

7. TRUE or FALSE? The appearance of the primitive streak also has legal significance: the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 only allows research to be carried out on human embryos up to this point in time.

8. TRUE or FALSE? Genesis 1 v 26 states that we are all made in the ‘image’ of God, a term that Christian opponents of abortion apply to the unborn fetus to support their belief in the sanctity of human life.

9. TRUE or FALSE? In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, the punishment for causing a woman to miscarry was only a fine.

10. TRUE or FALSE? A Biblical teaching found in Psalm 139 states ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you’.

11. TRUE or FALSE?  Some Christians hold what is known as a ‘weak sanctity of life’ position on the issue of abortion which balances the Bible’s pro-life teachings with Jesus’s emphasis on love and compassion as a justification for abortion in certain cases. One example of a famous person who might be said to maintain this kind of view is the US political activist Reverend Jesse Jackson who believes that abortion is immoral but should be legal because of the health risks to women if it wasn’t.

12. TRUE or FALSE? For Catholics, human life has always been sacred from the moment of conception.

13. TRUE or FALSE? The principle of double-effect which also underpins Catholic teaching about this issue can be found in the writings of…

a. Augustine

b. Anselm

c. Aquinas

d. Aristotle

14. According to this principle, an action is morally right if…

a. It has two effects.

b. It has two effects, both of which are intended.

c. The main intention of the action is moral but it has an unfortunate, secondary effect which is both immoral and unintended but foreseen.

d. The secondary effect of the action is moral and intended, even though the first effect is immoral, so that the consequences overall are still moral.

15. Which of the following is NOT an example of the principle of double-effect at work?

a. An army base in the middle of an enemy city is bombed and a few civilians living nearby are killed as well. The base was a legitimate target and the death of civilians was not the intention of the bombing (even though those deaths could be predicted).

b. Bombing an orphanage in order to terrorise an enemy into surrendering.

c. A doctor who wishes to prevent pain in a dying patient gives that patient a palliative (pain-relieving) drug which he knows may also shorten life.

d. A doctor intending to save the life of a pregnant woman performs the necessary life-saving surgery, knowing that this will also terminate the pregnancy.

16. Which of the following is NOT a valid potential criticism of the principle of double-effect?

a. No action can truly be said to have two simultaneous effects.

b. Our intentions can be hidden, and so a person might be able to conceal what is actually an immoral motive for performing an action by appealing to this principle.

c. According to Peter Singer, the principle of double-effect is actually a disguised form of utilitarian, consequentialist thinking so we should acknowledge this and not pretend otherwise.

17. The philosopher who rejects the principle of the sanctity of human life and the notion of a ‘right to life’ , whilst accepting that the taking of human life is normally wrong when someone’s life is deemed to be worth living and they are in possession of a level of consciousness that allows them to appreciate this for themselves is…

a. Peter Singer

b. Jonathan Glover

c. Judith Jarvis Thomson

d. Joseph Fletcher

18. TRUE or FALSE? In the unconscious violinist thought experiment, an analogy can be drawn between someone who has not given their consent to be kidnapped and hooked up to the unconscious violinist and women who become pregnant through rape or a failure of contraception i.e. the pregnancy is not something that they have planned or consented to.

19. TRUE or FALSE? The point of this thought experiment is to show that a fetus does not have a right to life.

20. TRUE or FALSE? It has been argued that the relationship between a pregnant woman and the fetus she is carrying is not like an impersonal relationship between a woman and a sick violinist she has become connected to. It is far more intimate. So the analogy is not helpful or relevant when it comes to moral decision-making about abortion because it is too far removed from the actual experience of being pregnant for a woman.

21. The philosopher who argues that abortion and infanticide are not always wrong because both the unborn fetus and a newly born child lack personhood (defined as being self-aware and knowing that you have a future) is…

a. Peter Singer

b. Jonathan Glover

c. George Annas

d. Judith Jarvis Thomson

22. TRUE or FALSE? For this philosopher, whether a being is a person is the only important issue surrounding abortion and euthanasia.

23. Which of the following is NOT an example of a case where, for this philosopher, passive euthanasia in the form of infanticide would be acceptable?

a. If the child is born severely disabled.

b. If the child, due to extreme prematurity, has suffered bleeding in the brain so severe that it will never be able to breathe without a respirator or be capable of recognizing another person.

c. If the child is born without a major part of its digestive tract and would therefore always need to be fed through a drip.

d. If the child is born anencephalic i.e. without major parts of the brain, skull and scalp.

24. TRUE or FALSE? Jonathan Glover describes all attempts to draw moral dividing lines when it comes to stages in the development of the fetus as ‘futile’. For example, viability is demonstrably a shifting boundary (due to advances in medical technology) and is therefore too arbitrary as a cut-off point, and he has this to say about birth: ‘If we could see the foetus from the outside, would we still be so sure about the immense difference between the foetus-baby just before and just after birth?

25. TRUE or FALSE? Glover has also suggested that if a fire was to break out in a fertility clinic and we had time to save either a 5 year old girl or a tray of twenty frozen human embryos, we would think it odd if someone thought that the embryos were more deserving of rescue, which in turn casts doubt on the moral status of embryos being equivalent to that of someone who has already been born for those Christians who support the notion of the Sanctity of Human Life.

26. TRUE or FALSE? Up to 5 adults can be involved in successful fertility treatment that results in the birth of a child.

27. TRUE or FALSE? IVF stand for ‘in vitro’ (in glass) fertilisation and is a fertility treatment which involves sperm and egg being brought together outside of the womb to produce an embryo.

28. TRUE or FALSE? Catholic Christians approve of AID (Artificial Insemination Donor).

29. TRUE or FALSE? Some Christians disapprove of IVF treatment because it results in the creation of spare embryos that are seen as potential human beings and the use of these embryos in medical research.

30. TRUE or FALSE? Some Christians may also be opposed to the use of stem cells taken from cord blood because they think that an embryo has a moral status conferred by teachings about the sanctity of life.

ANSWERS

  1. C – the other options involve value judgements (e.g. that aborting a fetus is killing) whereas this definition is morally neutral and simply defines what the process involves.
  2. True
  3. False – the law in the UK was passed on 27 October 1967, coming into effect on 27 April 1968. The date for the USA is correct, though it is notable that this was some time after the hippy period in the 1960’s with its accompanying sexual philosophy of ‘free love’.
  4. B
  5. False – it’s the 18th week.
  6. D
  7. True
  8. True
  9. True
  10. False – that quotation comes from Jeremiah 1 v 5. Contrastingly, Ecclesiastes 4v3 states ‘Yet better than both [the living and the dead] is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun’. Here the author appears to argue that ending what might turn out to be a painful existence might be a good thing. In other words, he seems to be saying that the quality of a potential life, rather than its sanctity, is what matters. And he was not alone in this argument. Consider the words of another Old Testament character Job, a man of great faith and wealth, who after experiencing a series of personal disasters, complained that he would have been better off if his life had been terminated as a fetus: “Why then hast Thou brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been, carried from womb to tomb.” There is also one passage in which a Jewish king, Menahem, someone who might therefore be assumed to be acting in the name of God, does the following: ‘….starting from Tirzah, Menahem attacked Tiphsah, all who were in it, and its territory. Because they wouldn’t surrender, he attacked it and ripped open all the pregnant women.’ (2 Kings Chapter 15 verse 16). Passages such as these could potentially be used to suggest that the Bible supports abortion, or at least that the Biblical position is not as clear cut as some Christians who are opposed to abortion tend to imagine.
  11. True – in her outstanding survey of the history of the legal wrangling over abortion in the USA, Carol Sanger notes that following the Roe v Wade judgement in 1973, there was ‘a massive decline in maternal mortality and obstetric injury’, a factual detail that lends support to Rev. Jackson’s position.
  12. False – again, Sanger points out that, ‘The Roman Catholic Church long held that ensoulment, or the beginning of human life, occurred around the time of quickening: according to Aquinas, ensoulment occurred forty days after conception for boys and ninety days after conception for girls. Only in 1974 was ensoulment relocated to the moment of conception.’
  13. C
  14. C
  15. B
  16. A
  17. B
  18. True
  19. False – The point of this thought experiment is to show that even if a fetus is acknowledged to be a human being with a right to life, in some situations the right of the woman carrying a child to decide what happens to her body is more important.
  20. True – this criticism was made by Catherine Mackinnon
  21. A
  22. False – Whether a person (or a fetus) can feel pain also entitles them to moral consideration. This is because Singer is a utilitarian and for all utilitarians the amount of pleasure and pain produced by an action in terms of its effects on everyone concerned remains important, even though Singer also places an emphasis on the preferences of everyone affected too because he was, until recently, a preference utilitarian. For Singer there would be a connection between having a sense of personhood and having preferences. If you are a person, you would be aware that you have a life to lose and have a preference to go on living in most situations.
  23. A – it is not necessarily the severity of the disability that matters for Singer, so much as whether the severely disabled person is capable of being able to still take pleasure in life. In the case of David Glass, a boy with hydranencephaly (a rare condition in which the cerebral hemispheres of the brain are absent and replaced by sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid) and cerebral palsy, who is partially sighted, epileptic, cannot speak, and has profound learning disabilities, Singer argued (in a television documentary Peter Singer – A Dangerous Mind) that doctors acted inappropriately in being unwilling to treat him in accord with the wishes of his mother (until she insisted that they do so) for this reason. This was a position that Singer adopted after meeting David and his mother and being able to see for himself that this severely disabled boy was still able to derive some enjoyment from life and did not appear to be in pain.
  24. True
  25. False – George Annas not Glover was the person who devised this thought experiment.
  26. True – One person could donate sperm, another an egg, a surrogate could then bear the child for childless couple. That makes 5 in addition to the prospective parents. NOTE: the issue of surrogacy, especially commercial surrogacy, is rarely discussed in the relevant A Level textbooks. See HERE for some introductory information.
  27. True
  28. False – They disapprove because the ‘D’ in AID stands for ‘donor’. This introduces a third person into the relationship who is supplying the sperm used for Artificial Insemination. Catholics therefore see this as a form of ‘technological adultery’.
  29. True – this is also why some Christians may be opposed to PGD (Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis), a technique used in conjunction with IVF that involves screening newly fertilised embryos for inheritable genetic conditions (e.g. Huntington’s Disease, Tay-Sachs and Down Syndrome) before the embryos are implanted in the womb. This procedure again may involve the discarding of spare embryos.
  30. False – ‘cord blood’ here refers to the umbilical cord. So storing cord blood does not involve the destruction of embryos. However, concerns have been expressed about the possibility of medical staff failing to adequately monitor the health of the mother when the child is delivered if their attention is diverted to preserving cord blood. Some private companies also charge parents fees that have been criticised as excessive and inappropriate for the service of storing cord blood in case it is ever needed for the treatment of the child later on in life (the chances of this are rare but the fee is expensive).