National Bioethics Conference, 1986.

Photo courtesy of Adventist HealthCare Limited.

Christian Centre for Bioethics, Australia

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Modeled somewhat on the Loma Linda Center for Christian Bioethics, the Christian Centre for Bioethics established on the campus of Sydney Adventist Hospital, Australia, has provided a forum for research, discussion, and practical resolution of ethical issues in the practice of medicine since 1986.

The Need for Discussion

New and revolutionary medical technologies prompted the need for discussion about Christian ethics that sometimes arose when treatments were applied. Dr Herbert Clifford of the Sydney Adventist Hospital (SAH) was one of the leading practitioners within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination to publicize a number of bioethical problems confronted by his peers. In 1983 he raised in the denominational press such questions as “Is in vitro fertilization an option for Christian couples?” and “Should Christians pursue research into the cloning of human beings?”1 Other issues he raised were “Is the euthanasia of humans acceptable practice?” and “Should abortion on demand be conducted in a Christian community?”2 Clifford had studied ethics through the University of South Africa’s distance education facility and later completed an intensive course in bioethics at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.3

Concurrent with Clifford’s published articles in 1983 was a similar interest in bioethics at Loma Linda University in California. In 1984 the Loma Linda Center for Christian Bioethics was established.4

A Center Organized at Sydney Adventist Hospital

Clifford and Tom Ludowici, senior chaplain at SAH, united to organize a national conference in 1986 at which academic papers were read and discussed. It was the beginning of a series of 11 conferences sponsored by SAH over a period of 13 years. The organizational arm soon became known as the Christian Centre for Bioethics and Ludowici was first named as its director in 1987.5 The conferences are summarized in the following synopsis:

First Conference, April 7 and 8, 1986.6 Professor Jack Provonsha visited from the Center for Christian Bioethics at Loma Linda University and spoke on a variety of topics. Ludowici introduced brown-bag lunches to enable hospital staff to attend crowded midday lectures. Professor Gareth Jones from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Dr. Leon Clark were supporting lecturers. Attendance was approximately two hundred people.7

Second Conference, April 6 and 7, 1987. Roy Branson of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, examined the views of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross about death and dying. Sandra Nehlsen-Cannarella from Loma Linda University spoke about organ transplantation. Supporting speakers were Dr. Herbert Clifford, Douglas Hynd, and Les Miller. Attendance was more than 170 people.8

Third Conference, April 18 and 19, 1988. David Larson of the Center for Christian Bioethics at Loma Linda University was the main speaker, leading with the topic “The Priority of Personhood: Medical Ethics in the Twenty-first Century.” Eighty people were in attendance.9

Fourth Conference, April 10 and 11, 1989. Gerald Winslow, professor of ethics at Loma Linda University, spoke on ethical decision-making. He was supported by Rilla Taylor, chair of the Department of Nursing at Andrews University. Judith Nixon of the Victorian Health Department and Bruce Kaye and Douglas Bridge of the New South Wales Marriage Guidance Council and Fremantle Hospital respectively, all lectured on aspects of euthanasia. Almost one hundred were in attendance.10

Fifth Conference, April 2 and 3, 1990. Helga Kuhse, deputy director of the Centre for Human Bioethics at Melbourne’s Monash University, read a paper titled “The Right to Die.” James Walters, a Loma Linda University ethicist, spoke about ethical issues of transplanting hearts from anencephalic babies. Russell Scott, a Sydney solicitor, examined legal aspects of various medical decisions. Constantine Michael, obstetrics professor from the University of Western Australia, and Michael Pearson, lecturer from Newbold College, England, were supporting speakers. The attendance topped a record 220.11

Sixth Conference, April 15 and 16, 1991. Paul Lauritzen, associate professor of ethics at John Carroll University in Ohio, addressed the ethics of surrogacy.12 Other speakers were Alastair Campbell, professor of biomedical ethics at Otago Medical School in New Zealand, Ian Olver, head of medical oncology at the Peter McCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne, Dr. Herbert Clifford, and Sydney nursing school lecturers Judith Mair and Kathy White.13

Seventh Conference, April 6 and 7, 1992.14 The main speaker was Professor Gareth Jones, director of the Bioethics Research Centre at the University of Otago, New Zealand. It was his second appearance at the conferences. He outlined various new medical procedures that included transplants using fetal brain tissue, livers, and pancreases. The ethical issues, he said, were compounded by the fact that sometimes material was harvested from induced abortions.15

Eighth Conference, March 29 and 30, 1993. Professor Gerald Winslow returned for a second series of lectures. He was supported by Nancy Jecker, professor of medical history and ethics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Herbert Clifford and Megan-Jane Johnstone also lectured.16

Ninth Conference, March 21 and 22, 1994. Julie Hamblin spoke on behalf of the United Nations development program combating HIV. Other lecturers were Kath Melia, from the University of Edinburgh Department of Nursing Studies, David Schiedermayer, associate professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Grant Gillett, associate professor of medical ethics at the University of Otago, New Zealand.17

Tenth Conference, March 24 and 25, 1996.18 Speakers included Nell Muirden, Stuart Hooper, Ian Cameron, Susan Kurrle, Michael Eburn, Malcolm Parker, Ross Baillee, Malcolm Fisher, and Peggy Stone, founder of Silent Hearts for the parents of organ donors. The theme of the conference was active and passive euthanasia, palliative care, and the impact of government legislation. Dr. Richard Lim, member of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory, spoke as a representative of those who opposed euthanasia. Attendance numbered 120.19

Eleventh Conference, March 29 and 30, 1998. Professor Roger Higgs from the Department of General Practice and Primary Care at Kings College, London, was featured as a speaker, together with Dr. James Cox from the Department of Medical Bioethics at Florida Hospital, Orlando.20 Supporting speakers were Professor Peter Ravenscroft and Associate Professor Norelle Lickiss, both specialists in palliative care.21

A seminar exclusively for Seventh-day Adventists was conducted August 3 and 4, 1998. It was advertised as “Sexual Abuse Within the Church.” The two speakers were Helen Last and Ray Wyre, clinicians who treated sex offenders. Wyre was the founder of Gracewell Clinic in Birmingham, England.22

Library Collection at SAH

Despite expressed opinion that all ethical issues could be resolved in Scripture and Ellen White’s writings, Clifford was aware that modern advances in medical science had raised issues not canvassed by either Scripture or White. For that reason he published his articles in 1983 to test the waters for interest. He also compiled a scrapbook of newspaper articles of the day about ethical issues to present at SAH board meetings in order to convince members of the dire need for public discussion about medical ethics.23 Moreover, foresight led Clifford and Ludowici to start building a library of authoritative books and journals about medical ethics. Michael Rigby, SAH librarian, has continued building the collection to its world-class status. Currently (2019) the library holds 8,463 volumes and 25 journal subscriptions. Ludowici, who had retired in July 2005, was honored on April 19, 2010, when the collection was named the Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection. It is housed in the Avondale College Sydney Campus Library and open to medics, nursing students, and the general public.24

Sources

Advertisement, “Sexual Abuse Within the Church,” 1998. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Shelf Records. Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics.” Document: “Sexual Abuse Within the Church, 1998.”

“Bioethics.” Record, February 16, 1991.

“Bioethics.” Record, February 20, 1993.

“Bioethics at SAH.” Record, May 14, 1988.

“Bioethics Conference at SAH.” Record, February 21, 1998.

Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1986. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Shelf Records. Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics.” Document: “Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1986.”

Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1998. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Shelf Records. Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics.” Document: “Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1998.”

“Bioethics in 1994.” Record, February 26, 1994.

“Christian Bioethics.” Record, April 8, 1989.

Clifford, H[erbert] E. “Bioethics: Morality for a New Age.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, April 30, 1983.

———. “Test-Tube Life.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 7, 1983.

Clifford, Her[bert]. “Tribute to Dr. Tom Ludowici,” April 19, 2010. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Shelf Records. Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics.” Document: “Tribute to Dr Tom Ludowici.”

“Conference Topics.” Record, March 21, 1992.

“Ethics Conference Addresses Issues.” Record, June 1, 1991.

“Issues Confronted in SAH Seminar.” Record, May 4, 1996.

Krause, Gary. “Sydney Adventist Hospital Sponsors Second National Bioethics Conference.” South Pacific Record and Adventist World Survey, May 30, 1987.

Pearson, Helen. “SAH Hosts Major Ethics Conference.” Record, May 26, 1990.

[Rigby, Michael]. Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Shelf Records. Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics.” Document: “Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection.”

“SAH Bioethics.” Record, February 24, 1996.

Trim, John B. “First National Conference a Success.” South Pacific Record and Adventist World Survey, June 14, 1986.

Zaska, Neroli. “Attendees Rate Bioethics Seminar a Huge Success.” Record, May 27, 1989.

———. “Sydney Hospital Establishes Centre for Bioethics.” Record, October 10, 1987.

———. “The Ethics of Medicine.” Record, May 16, 1992.

Notes

  1. H[erbert] E. Clifford, “Test-Tube Life,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 7, 1983: .2.

  2. H[erbert] E. Clifford, “Bioethics: Morality for a New Age,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, April 30, 1983, 7.

  3. [Michael Rigby], Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection, Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records (Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics”; Document: “Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection”).

  4. Neroli Zaska, “Sydney Hospital Establishes Centre for Bioethics,” Record, October 10, 1987, 10, 11.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1986. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records (Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics”; Document: “Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1986”).

  7. John B. Trim, “First Bioethics Conference a Success,” South Pacific Record and Adventist World Survey, June 14, 1986, 11.

  8. Gary Krause, “Sydney Adventist Hospital Sponsors Second National Bioethics Conference,” South Pacific Record and Adventist World Survey, May 30, 1987, 8.

  9. “Bioethics at SAH,” Record, May 14, 1988, 9.

  10. “Christian Bioethics,” Record, April 8, 1989, 10; Neroli Zaska, “Attendees Rate Bioethics Seminar a Huge Success,” Record, May 27, 1989, 11.

  11. Helen Pearson, “SAH Hosts Major Ethics Conference,” Record, May 26, 1990, 11.

  12. “Ethics Conference Addresses Issues,” Record, June 1, 1991, 10.

  13. “Bioethics,” Record, February 16, 1991, 9.

  14. “Conference Topics,” Record, March 21, 1992, 9.

  15. Neroli Zaska, “The Ethics of Medicine,” Record, May 16, 1992, 11, 12.

  16. “Bioethics,” Record, February 20, 1993, 4.

  17. “Bioethics in 1994,” Record, February 26, 1994 4.

  18. “SAH Bioethics,” Record, February 24, 1996, 4.

  19. “Issues Confronted in SAH Seminar,” Record, May 4, 1996, 10.

  20. “Bioethics Conference at SAH,” Record, February 21, 1998, 4.

  21. Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1998, Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records (Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics”; Document: “Bioethics Conference Brochure, 1998”).

  22. Advertisement, “Sexual Abuse Within the Church,” 1998, Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records (Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics”; Document: “Sexual Abuse Within the Church, 1998”).

  23. [Her]bert Clifford, “Tribute to Dr. Tom Ludowici,” April 19, 2010, Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records (Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics”; Document: “Tribute to Dr. Tom Ludowici”); Herbert E. Clifford, interview by Milton Hook, October 17, 2010.

  24. [Michael Rigby], Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection, Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records (Folder: “Christian Centre for Bioethics”; Document: “Tom Ludowici Bioethics Collection”).

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Hook, Milton. "Christian Centre for Bioethics, Australia." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=F7UM.

Hook, Milton. "Christian Centre for Bioethics, Australia." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access June 13, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=F7UM.

Hook, Milton (2020, January 29). Christian Centre for Bioethics, Australia. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 13, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=F7UM.