Matters of Life and Death

Matters of Life and Death

In each episode of Matters of Life and Death, brought to you by Premier Unbelievable?, John Wyatt and his son Tim discuss issues in healthcare, ethics, technology, science, faith and more. John is a doctor, professor of ethics, and writer and speaker, while Tim is a religion and social affairs journalist. We talk about how Christians can better engage with a particular question of life, death or something else in between. For more resources to help you explore faith and the big questions, visit: http://www.premierunbelievable.com If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John’s website: http://www.johnwyatt.com

Episodes

June 22, 2022 34 min

Could it be that some knowledge – including whether your unborn child has a serious genetic condition – is actually not helpful, and even harmful to us? In this episode we dig further into the complex ethics of prenatal screening and explore what the Christian tradition makes of seeking to understand the future, and the different arguments for and against aborting children we know will be disabled.

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Pregnant women today are offered a battery of tests and screening for their unborn child, looking for an ever-increasing range of conditions and risks. But is the onward march of technology in this sphere always an unmitigated good thing? With abortion for a disability legal in the UK up to term, women are being given terrible choices previous generations never faced: give birth to a child who probably has a life-limiting or even f...

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Demographic trends reveal clearly the next century will be one increasingly dominated by older people. If God is giving us a lot more folk in their later years, what are they for in church life? Has the modern church, terrified of decline, alienated its faithful, older congregants in a desperate attempt to lure back the young? And what wisdom and service do older Christians have to offer their churches?

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The world’s population is rapidly becoming older and older, with many developed nations seeing unprecedented proportions of their citizens in retirement age. Why is this taking place, and does this presage an era of economic stagnation or a utopia of stability? How have fears over demography shifted as fertility rates plummet across the world, and how can we avoid pitting the young against the ever more powerful old in bitter inter...

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In the second part of our conversation on robot rights, we explore three Christian responses to calls for robot personhood, spanning the spectrum of hostility to optimism about the development. What Biblical truths and doctrines can we turn to as we wrestle with what is a fundamentally brand new dilemma? And how would our theology and practice as believers change should conscious, intelligent, autonomous robots come to live among u...

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If and when autonomous and intelligent robots come into existence, should they be granted rights, or even personhood? A growing number of technologists argue governments must lay out what status conscious and rational machines would have before they actually have been invented. But how can we decide what is and isn’t a person, and what rights and responsibilities such a thing should have? And how could this philosophical and techni...

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Abortion is a flashpoint issue in both the church and wider culture, with the very language you choose used as a cudgel for either side. So how can Christians talk about it and respond to it in a way which cools tensions rather than inflames them? How has the church’s thinking on abortion and pregnancy changed over the many decades John has been involved in healthcare? And can a pro-life believer offer truly non-directive counselli...

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Rates of unplanned pregnancies rose significantly during the coronavirus lockdowns. What kind of support is out there for women (and men) facing this situation, and how can the church try and plug the gaps? In this episode we speak with Sophie Guthrie-Kummer, who runs a charity in London which has offered pregnancy crisis counselling (among other services) for two decades, to hear what this work looks like and how Choices juggles t...

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This is part two of our re-broadcast of last year’s John Stott episode, to mark what would have been his centenary. Is Stott’s vision of lay Christians persuading for Christ in the public square a naïve fantasy in the 21st century? And should we be more cautious before lionising evangelical titans like Stott in this age of scandal and disappointment?

(Originally broadcast in April 2021).

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This month marks 101 years since the late John Stott was born, and his centenary last year prompted a flurry of events to mark the centenary of this highly influential vicar, Bible teacher and evangelical leader. ‘Uncle John’, as he was affectionately known, also had a huge impact on John's life and career and so we dialled in back then to reflect on not just the legacy of Stott’s many decades of ministry, but also to consider ...

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In Britain as in many countries there is a growing campaign to legalise assisted suicide and to make doctors prescribe on request lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. In the second part of our interview with Sarah Foot, a Christian palliative care doctor, Sarah explains why her colleagues are overwhelmingly opposed to this, the ignorance which lies behind many of the arguments for changing the law, and the implications for pall...

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Over the past 60 years a new field of medicine has emerged – palliative care. In this episode we interview Sarah Foot, a Christian palliative care doctor, who explains how she treats the physical, mental, social and even spiritual needs of those who are dying, the Christian foundations of the discipline, and what impact her profession has on her.

 

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Following on from our discussion last week on the rise of climate fatalism, we discuss what an authentically Christian response to our environmental crisis would look like. How can we steer a middle path between complacency and despair? Does our different theology of the future change how we act on climate change? And, what can we learn from our evangelical forbears about how to live well in the face of potential climate catastroph...

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The latest report from the UN's climate scientists was both incredibly downbeat about climate change and almost entirely ignored by a media fixated on Ukraine. In this episode we consider the communication and changing narratives around climate change, why an unscientific hyper-fatalism has set in with many activists, and what impact this might be having on younger generations terrified humanity itself is going extinct. 

 

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In this episode we pick up our conversation from last week about transhumanism and how technology might redefine what it means to be human. We consider what place technology has in today's social narrative and whether it makes sense as Christians to automatically resist efforts to use cutting-edge science to reshape ourselves. Is the human body to be regarded as a Lego kit or a flawed masterpiece of art? How do we discern the C...

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Billions of dollars are currently being spent by a suite of private firms, mostly in Silicon Valley, pursuing radical research to enhance human capacities. These companies want to put off, or even defeat, aging, upload our minds to computers and give humans new abilities. Is this simply the next frontier for science and something to be welcomed, or should Christians hesitate to endorse research which appears to target our very crea...

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To mark our arrival on the Premier network, we recap how Matters of Life and Death began and what we hope our intergenerational conversations might achieve. We then reflect on how the pandemic and its acceleration of digital technology has shaped so many of the issues we discuss, before briefly exploring three stories we will cover in future episodes (human enhancement, climate change nihilism, and end of life care).

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The Omicron variant has in a few short weeks almost taken over the pandemic. This highly transmissible version of covid is raising afresh complicated ethical questions about vaccine distribution and international solidarity between nations. How can we ascertain what is the common good during global crises affecting different countries in different ways? Does Christianity lend any intellectual backing to those who demand the state r...

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This week we are resuming our conversation about infertility which begun in our previous episode. If you haven’t yet listened to that discussion, which focused on IVF, we’d recommend pausing this and going back to it as we will build on some of the ideas we explored last time. Today, we moved on to consider new ethical issues among other reproductive technologies. This is an area of medicine and science which is developing fast, so...

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Today we are delving into a complex and sensitive topic – infertility and IVF. The statistics suggest about one in seven couples will be unable to conceive without some kind of medical intervention, and the most popular form of reproductive treatment is in vitro fertilisation – IVF. Partly because infertility is such a painful time for many of those experiencing it, we don’t talk about it much. The same is also true of IVF, even th...

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