What Are Your Thoughts?

Blogging is unique because there is potential for open dialogue between writer and reader. To enjoy this unique quality I have decided to do something different than the norm. I would like to offer you an opportunity to respond to one question.

Feel free to use quotes from favorite authors, old papers (the ones you have buried in some deep corner of your thumbdrive), recent papers, or whatever. Try to keep it under 5 sentences… If you are not a fellow blogger on [email protected] please make note (briefly, I might add) of who you are.

Oh yeah, despite my track record, I intend to reply to all comments (if there are any)…

So, here it is:

In medical ethics, is it ever right to take away someone’s autonomy? Cases? Examples?

On Ending Aging

 

While we all may agree that the idea of avoiding aging or prolonging life has its appeal, very few people would attach themselves to the pursuits of Aubrey de Grey. He is a passionate man dedicated to the quest of ending the leading cause of death–aging.

At great length Grey has written and spoken about SENS; “to repair or obviate the accumulating damage and thereby indefinitely postpone the age at which it reaches pathogenic levels.”

Though my mentioning of him may seem strange, I was reminded of this beautifully bearded man when I came across an article about a study done on the horrible and rare genetic disease, progeria.

In this article, Dr. Francis Collins proposes the common assumption that “the aging of cells and of individuals was just a matter of everything running down,” is just not right.  “The same mechanism that causes children with progeria to age seven times the normal rate may play a role in normal aging as well.”

So, what does this mean?

In layman’s terms, Collins claims his study shows aging to be an active biological mechanism that is programed into cells not a passive wearing out of cells.

 

 

For those of you who know of Aubrey’s proposal, are there any conflicts between his views and this recent development?

Do you think this could be an initial step at accomplishing Aubrey’s ambitions?

Do you think that substantially extending the human life is even possible?

 

 

Another Point for Adult Stem Cells?

A recent development in (Adult) Stem Cell research has proven effective in repairing the heart muscles of mice after a heart attack! Although the procedure has only proven effective–thus far–on mice, the promise of cell reactivation repairing muscle after a heart attack is nothing to sneeze at.

“The researchers examined the hearts of mice at various time points after the operation [procedure that replicates the effects of a heart attack]. They found heart cells expressing Wt1 just two days after the injury. The cells were initially in the heart’s outer layer, but by two weeks after surgery they had moved inside and clustered around the site of the injury. The cells had also changed in size and shape, and looked just like cardiomyocytes.”

This success is another reminder that we (scientists and researchers of today) are still needlessly pursuing the less than ethical embryonic stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos, the ending of human lives.   When comparing the two it is difficult to not concede to the preeminence of embryonic alternatives, and still the federal government wishes to fund the destruction of embryos.

While the battle continues, it looks like embryonic alternatives still have the upper hand.

For more information on stem cell research check out this website.

 

 

 

 

The End of the Food Pyramid

If you read my recent post entitled “The Human Factory” you may have begun to suspect that I am quite interested in food and the food industry. Connected with this intense passion for food is my interest in nutrition as it relates to physical training. So, when I heard of the new initiative of the US gov’t to reshape the nation through the replacement of the food pyramid, I was overjoyed and bewildered all at the same time.

Here is why:

My reason for being overjoyed is obvious–the current state of America’s health is horrible. This fact has correlative effects upon our health care system (i.e. increased spending on health care and increased demand on physicians).

I am bewildered because I am not sure that these new initiatives will have any impact on American Culture…

What do you think?

Is MyPlate going to be just another trend that fades away with time?

Will this public health initiative help us get out of our current state?

 

Roger Abdelmassih–Rapist, Trickster, or Doctor?

Did you hear about this?

Roger Abdelmassih [IVF Doctor in Brazil] is on the run from police after being convicted of sexually assaulting or raping 39 female patients at his clinic.”

I had nearly forgotten about this horrible story when it hit the news again after a few month lapse. But it never fails, every time this kind of news event (a corrupt caregiver manipulates his position) comes to the public eye, I begin to wonder:

What about the Hippocratic tradition/oath?

With the oath in mind, can “physicians” like Abdelmassih really be considered physicians at all?

After all, Abdelmassih no longer sought to heal, cure and care for his patients. He used his technical knowledge to his own advantage and abused the sacred bond between caregiver and patient. To say it bluntly, he manipulated and abandoned the nature of the craft.

Clearly he is not the rule in the field of medicine.

Nonetheless, this gives rise to a number of familiar concerns with the abuse of power/knowledge in an already complex relationship.

Do you think this has any resonating concerns within the entire field of medicine or is this just one extreme case?

 

The Human Factory

I am sure many of you “foodies” have heard of the less than appetizing ingredient added to the long menu of strange “eats”—human breast milk. For those of you who are less than food savvy: do not fret, the milk you have been buying is likely from a cow (but I would still check the label).

This may seem to be a relatively obscure fact and even completely unrelated to the world of bioethics. However, you may think differently after reading the following article:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/05/02/new-yorkers-sample-cheese-breast-milk/

For those of you who do not have the time or the interest to read this article…

Miriam Simun created a temporary art installation called the Lady Cheese Shop, which produces breast milk cheese, in hopes to make people think about the various ways human bodies are used as factories “producing blood, hair, sperm, eggs and organs that can all be harvested to be used by others.”

Can you think of any reason why human blood transfusions are generally accepted and human breast milk products “raise eyebrows”?

“Cleaning Up the Population”

 

Recently a disconcerting news event in New Hampshire went relatively unnoticed by the outside world, which–I suppose–is not all that surprising.  A freshman lawmaker, Martin Harty (age 92) resigned his short-lived position as a Representative after forcefully inserting his foot into his mouth.

Harty haphazardly spoke to a constituent, a board member of the Disability Rights Center, espousing the shipment of “defective people to Siberia to freeze.” By “defective people” he meant: “the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions.”

Harty said in his own defense, “I was just kidding with her”…

Oops.

The most concerning part about this story was in the fallout. House Speaker William O’Brien nearly dismissed Harty’s comments: “While he has earned the right to say what he thinks, needs to appreciate that, as a representative, he will be held to a higher standard.”

Then, after Harty publicly announced his resignation, O’Brien said: “We both agreed that this is what is best for the House to move forward and focus on critical issues, like balancing our budget without raising taxes and giving voters an opportunity to pass a school funding amendment to ensure local control.”

Don’t get me wrong: We all do dumb things. We all make mistakes.

However, O’Brien made light of a comment that has horrible direct and indirect consequences; consequences that substantiate being considered “critical issues”. His comment cannot be absolved by resignation without being addressed. Discarding any group of people based upon their ability to be a productive part of society is not an idea that should be taken lightly. That mistake has already been made too many times.

For the value of a human life is not derived from the life lived, but instead from the One who has given life.

For the full article on this news topic check out this link.

 

Parental Guidance Before and After Birth

 

As I sat sipping coffee and reading articles on the moral implications of genetic interventions in the germ-line (don’t yawn), a perfect picture was painted at the table across from me.  A young and boisterous child spoke of his aspirations for the future, vehemently proclaiming to a doubting adult audience, “I want to be a teacher, a singer, a dancer, a hospital man, I want to be everything.”

 

His ambitions were a bit outlandish.

 

His father, or who I believed to be his father, responded: “Do you know how you can be all of those things? You can be an actor.  This way you can be a teacher one day, and a singer another, and…”

 

“No, I want to be them all!”– Clearly the aspirations of the father were distinct from that of the son.

 

Imagine, if you will, that your direct (active) influence on your child could begin before conception. What if you could unify your aspirations before birth? No longer would you have to squelch his dreams as he bellows across Starbucks…

 

Although this is not yet in our grasp, Gender selection and disease screening are already a possibility. What if more options become available?

 

John Harris, recognizing this future possibility in his book Enhancing Evolution, avows an ethical parity in genetic interventions before conception and parental influences after birth. Could this be true?  Are encouraging your child to play an instrument and (in some future world) fashioning an embryo to be a world-class musician morally equivalent?

 

I would say there is a distinct difference between choosing for our children potential traits in embryo and guiding our children along in life. No doubt both influences are according to parental values. However, by choosing traits we are no longer discussing influence in terms of persuasion and direction, we are discussing a new kind of coercion.

 

What do you think?