Ethical and scientific issues
Humanists have always been at the forefront of promoting a rational, secular approach to ethical issues in public policy. We are focused on developing and promoting expert and nuanced critique of issues including abortion and assisted dying, and on emerging contemporary issues, such as the state-funding of homeopathy and the shortage of organs available for donation.
Our most current appear as sub-pages here.
We base our responses on the humanist principles that individuals should have the right to live by own personal values and the freedom to make decisions about their own lives, as long as these do not result in harm to others. Humanists consider the often conflicting ideas and unpredictable consequences arising from, for example, new developments in medical science, using reason, evidence, compassion and shared human values, as far as possible.
We do recognise, however, that there are values that are not shared by everyone. Humanists do not share the attitudes to “interfering with nature” or “playing God” or the same definitions of personhood held by some religious believers. We respect the rights of those holding religious beliefs about the sanctity of life and the limits of medical intervention not to participate in some procedures, but we do not believe that the beliefs of the religious, when they are based on supernatural arguments, should be imposed on others.
The ethical issues on which we comment are various as you can see from the selection of some of our submissions below.
In June 2010, the BHA responded to a consultation on new guidance for pharmacists produced by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland which suggested that pharmacists have a duty to advise patients that there is ‘no scientific or clinical evidence base for the efficacy of homeopathic products, beyond a placebo effect.’
Reburial of Historic Remains
BHA responded to a consultation on a request from the Council of British Druid Orders for reburial of prehistoric human remains.
‘In Bad Faith: The Facts about how Religious Groups are Campaigning on Assisted Dying’
BHA published this report on 8th May 2006 to expose the tactics of religious groups in their campaigning ahead of the Lords Second Reading of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill on 12th May. You can read the text of the presentation that launched the report here.
BHA response (PDF) to a Government consultation on forced marriage, December 2005
The Humanist Patient
BHA was invited in July 2005 to contribute to a local NHS Hospital Trust’s guidance on dealing with patients of various beliefs. The format was provided by the Trust, and staff members Marilyn Mason, Maryam Namazie and some humanist officiants provided ideas and information. Other Hospital Trusts and hospitals and hospices may find this document useful.
Prolonging life in fetuses and the newborn
BHA response to a Nuffield Council on Bioethics consultation, June 2005
Spirituality in Youth Work
The BHA response to a National Youth Agency consultation, June 2005
The BHA writes to the Scout Association once or twice a year to complain about its continuing discrimination against atheists (the only two groups not welcome in the Association as leaders or scouts being paedophiles and atheists).
MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY In 2005, the BHA joined the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY coalition.
Mental health and wellbeing in later life, BHA response to Mental Health Foundation and Age Concern consultation, November 2004 (pdf)
Human Genetics Commission Choosing the Future, 2004 ( pdf )
Assisted Dying 2004/5
Human Genetics Commission consultation on the supply of genetic tests direct to the public, 2002
NB, some responses have to be submitted wholly or partially on questionnaire forms and so may not be available or may be incomplete here.