The Adventist Bioethics Consortium (Day 1)

The Adventist Bioethics Consortium chose “Ethics of Faithfulness for 21st Century Adventist Healthcare” as the theme for its third annual conference, held in the North American Division headquarters building on May 7 and 8. Aimed at Adventist healthcare leaders but also attended by a number of pastors and educators, the conference immediately brought attendees to face some very timely hot-button issues.

Devotional speaker Peter Bath spoke of the necessity of timeliness, of updating our grasp of reality. He spoke of sailing with his uncle in a small craft on Lake Ontario in 1968, and of running aground on a shoal that his uncle declared wasn’t there: it couldn’t be, because it wasn’t on the charts. Then Bath found that his uncle’s chart was dated 1920, long out of date. Our chart — our understanding of the world around us — must be constantly updated. Bath’s message: don’t just say it, live it. The work of Christian ethics is to live like Jesus.

Keynote speaker Dr. Robert Orr, chosen by the American Medical Association as America’s leading clinical ethicist, described the history of his move, influenced by Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer, from general practice into the ethics field, including 10 years as Director of Clinical Ethics at Loma Linda University Medical Center, a time remembered by many of Orr’s former students, now leaders in the field themselves, in today’s audience. Orr’s book, Medical Ethics and the Faith Factor is a standard in the field. Orr stressed that ethical dilemmas at the patient’s bedside are often caused by conflicting values and that the patient’s religious values must be honored.

The next plenary session was a presentation by Dr. Andrew Lampkin (Adventist University of Health Sciences) and Dr. Marilyn Link (Adventist HealthCare) on the Ethics of Health Disparities. Their objective was to define disparities, and investigate their causes and effects: ethnic, racial, and cultural, as well as the persistent burden and cost to society. They cited studies indicating that 30% of health care costs for black Americans result from health care disparities, and that eliminating such disparities would result in an annual cost saving of $200 billion. They stressed that only 20% of health outcomes are the result of medical treatment; the balance being attributable to environmental and cultural factors.

Link said that health care, in best practice, must be accessible, in plain language, with patient/provider coordination, cultural sensitivity, and be reflective of the diversity of the population served. Lampkin suggested that social justice means a society based on equality, based on American social values, international human rights principles and pragmatic considerations. He stressed that social justice is not the same as socialism, but did not expand on that idea. Such expansion and explication may prove to be very important in discourse with those who resist Lampkin’s assertion of health care as a human right.

The following session was on the “Science and Ethics of Sexual Identity,” by Dr. Kirby Oberg, Professor of Pathology and Human Anatomy, Loma Linda University. Oberg spoke of recent progress in our understanding of developmental biology, developmental pathways, genetic alteration and normal variations. He explained the process and effect of the hormone bath around the 20th week of pregnancy, and that rather than a simple matter of either an X or Y chromosome, it is now known that some 25 chromosomes are involved in gender determination. He discussed the 10 different syndromes involving sex reversal. It was obviously new material for many in the audience, as the questions revealed many struggling to find ways to clarify the cognitive dissonance between the implications of the scientific data and their religio-cultural beliefs.

After lunch, there were three breakout sessions, one for health care chaplains, another for health care executives, and the third continuing the discussion of gender and sexual identity. Dr. Albert Reece, Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, opined that although we don’t know all the stimuli for biologic gender alteration, the possibilities include trauma and epigenetics. He stressed the difference between physical gender identity and what may be a very different identity in the brain. His point: with so many unanswered questions and so many possibilities, we must treat all with respect.

The question period following this presentation indicated the presence of two unrecognized elephants in the room: culture and biblical interpretation. Most if not all of the resistance to the acceptance of scientific evidence derives from efforts to not disturb either one or the other. The speakers circled around but did not address directly the truths that both cultural beliefs and practices, and treasured but mistaken biblical interpretations, must yield to facts newly understood, or, in good Adventist terminology, to Present Truth.

Mitchell A. Tyner retired as Associate General Counsel of the General Conference.

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Sounds like possible progress. Thanks for the post!

Well, I’m glad it’s being discussed. This isn’t new news; I’d think that at least all of the medical leaders would be somewhat aware of it.

But why is it that anyone would struggle with this? Why is it that leaders ‘religio-cultural beliefs’ need be in conflict with biology and medicine? Should we proudly claim SDA leadership in the medical field while our religio-cultural beliefs position us to resist the very science medicine is based on?

I would argue the cognitive dissonance described is purely a result of religeous belief in areas that require knowledge to understand, not belief. And, that any resulting beliefs in the area regarding what is acceptable practice, if even appropriate, follow that knowledge. Form follows function, if you will.

The Church used to teach that the earth was the center of creation, of the ~universe. Adherents believed this to be true. They applied religeous meaning to this belief, that the universe was a special place created just for humans. But then science discovered something new in this scientific area of knowledge. And then the church fought it. Reportedly church leaders honestly feared that the church would crumble if their teachings were proven wrong. They thought the bible taught that the earth was the center of creation. It turns out you can’t have valid beliefs that contradict actual facts.

As Christians we should be used to this by now, centuries later. We should avoid making religious assertions regarding scientific subjects based on non-scientific beliefs. That’s just asking for trouble.

Thus the problem described above: If facts prove our beliefs to be wrong, whether they are religious or secular beliefs, then facts should be readily accepted and prior beliefs discarded.

This is not always a conflict between hard science and religion. It happens with religious studies as well. For example, to know based on biblical and historical scholarship that that the Pentateuch very likely assembled about 600BC, redacted from oral traditional and prior written materials, and not written contemporaneously, can help the reader understand it better. To know why Jews wrote scripture down, why they became people of the book, is important. To reject this type of knowledge based on personal traditional belief and for no other actual reason is unwise.


When is the Adventist church going to come out against abortion?

And where does the Bible fit into this? Is it the bedrock, or is it just called upon occasionally to make a few people more comfortable and to attempt to justify preconceived ideas?

I’d guess never. That stance results in bad medicine and bad public policy.


Would someone kindly explain what the above statement might mean? At birth, humans normally receive 23 pairs of chromosomes.

…which is 46 chromosomes.

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Its 25 different genes a number of which are not on the sex chromosomes.


This is a fascinating scientific field. I only worry that as the studies progress and more is learned from and about Nature, those who have consistently discounted science will end up more and more confused because they often insist in not being open-minded to new, renewed knowledge.

I am glad, though, that if anyone ends mentally disturbed as result of not being able to assimilate the new discoveries, our exclusive “par excellence” psychiatrist Dr Cupino @elmer_cupino will always be here to help them. There is always hope… :wink:


What chromosomes (autosomes) might those be? Thanks.

Chromosomes 5, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 17 can have mutations that lead to sex reversal. Here is a link to the talk if you are interested.


Thank you Dr. Oberg for all this educational information.

Finally someone coming up with real science and undeniable evidence providing relevant and reliable information to the public on this issue!

Among others, and based on daily experiences and neurological studies, Psychologists and Psychiatrists (like our Spectrum 24/7-on-call “par excellence” Psychiatrist @elmer_cupino) have concluded that the homosexual nature was not an individual’s choice. And we had been bombarded by the moralists in Church who usually don’t even know the difference between nature and nurture.

But now that the issue can be dealt with biologically, I believe that the public will finally become aware of how much they have been manipulated and lied to by the baseless moralists.

Thanks for the work you do. Keep sharing please.


An excellent book that covers this and other related subjects of how the brain’s functions work is:

You might say it’ll blow your mind. LOL.

Remember the Cape Town Symposium? Had our GC leaders been honest, they would have presented educational conferences such as this to educate its members before making church policies. This should have been a mandatory attendance for TW, EXCOMM and BRI committee members. I wonder whether any of them were present in this consortium.

In retrospect, the Cape Town symposium was an exercise in wasteful spending.

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I do remember Elmer. That was another GC fiasco. And TW had no problem feeding some committee a few weeks later reporting a completely different conclusion from what was said in Cape Town.

As we well know, ideas like this have been banned from the GC long time ago.

Unless this current group at the GC is voted out, “repealed & replaced” in 2020, this chaotic situation will continue. It’s a weak, failing mentality/attitude that has infiltrated the GC and is leading to a Church split sooner or later.