Faith At Work: Bioethics in the 21st Century

Faith At Work: Bioethics in the 21st Century


Earlier this month, CCER had the pleasure of hosting bioethics expert, Dr Bernadette Tobin for the second Faith at Work event for 2018 at our head office in Sydney. Faith at Work is our public forum in which prominent Australians discuss how their personal beliefs and experiences intersect with their professional lives.


A seasoned bioethics researcher and educator, Dr Tobin is the Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics, has published books on a myriad of issues in ethics and healthcare ethics and sits on a range of hospital and government advisory bodies.


Before delving deep into the complex, thought provoking world of bioethics, Bernadette spoke of her suffering as a life-long Carlton football club supporter, her early childhood memories in a family of ten and her budding romance with her life partner and husband.


Despite having a long successful career in academia, Bernadette concedes she wasn’t the greatest student while at school and was the only one of her eight siblings not to receive a scholarship for university.



She also didn’t immediately know what she wanted to do for a career and originally obtained a degree from Cambridge in politics.


“I can say I have a long academic CV and it ends up quite auspiciously with a PHD from the University of Cambridge but no one can extinguish the first line on it – 1963 – Italian 1 – Fail.”


Reflecting on her own personal journey with faith, it was not until Bernadette got involved in the Newman Society through the University of Melbourne that she began to engage deeply with God.


As the night progressed, Bernadette took Tony and the audience on a journey into the complex world of bioethics, sharing her unique insights and observations on a range of modern bioethical dilemmas.


One of the ethical cases discussed was the multitude of choices facing parents who discover during pregnancy that their child may be ‘incompatible with life’.


Bernadette believes while the relevant ethical principles may be clear as day, the real challenge comes in deciding what is the best one can do for the child in light of those principles.


“The challenge is to provide the most appropriate treatment for that child – and sometimes it will be accepting that while you could keep the child alive, what is involved in keeping that child alive would be greatly cruel and inhumane.”


Steering the conversation in the direction of the highly topical and divisive debate around euthanasia, Tony asked Bernadette whether someone is entitled to take their own life.



“The ancient ethic of medicine is to cure where possible, always to care, to accompany a person in whatever their situations are, but never to kill them and never to help them kill themselves… that’s not part of medicine.”


Bernadette suspects that over time the category of people who will be ineligible for euthanasia will become very small and that the laws surrounding euthanasia will change drastically.


With a lengthy euthanasia debate in New Zealand underway and the Premier of Queensland recently announcing a voluntary euthanasia inquiry, we will no doubt be hearing more from Bernadette on the issue in the months to come.


With these debates also popping up in state parliaments all across the country, the Faith at Work Dialogue could not have come at a better time.  If you want to join us for the next event in the series, make sure you keep an eye out for our emails.  We’ll keep you posted so that you can be there in person.

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