My forum post on MedWeb (Birmingham University)
It seems to me, that discussions of medical ethics with peers, in journals and the media tend to focus on ethical implications of only current medical abilities, despite however long they have been in exercise. An example would be abortion which was practised in Greek and Roman times. The first recorded recipe for an abortion producing drug was in 2600BC. Thomas Aquinas considered the scientific and theological aspects of abortion in depth in the 13th century. Other examples include organ transplantation and euthanasia.
Medicine, is one of the most, rapidly changing disciplines in society. Constantly new techniques, evidence and trials are being developed. I wonder whether or not we should be considering ethical issues concerning medical practice where the possibility of that medical practice will not emerge until a few decades.
Cloning and the benefits to humans are becoming more obvious. Scientists have already a headless frog embryo. It does not seem a distant possibility of headless human clones. In fact, it is real possibility that in a few decades we could have the ability to grow clones of ourselves from birth. These clones would be engineered to be biographically dead (a persistent vegetative state). They would never have been (biographically) alive. The purpose of each clone, as their biological development paralleled our own throughout life, would be as a spare organ store for us. We cannot grow whole organs by themselves, so surely growing a system (the clone) would be the most feasible method. Imagine, getting old, and finding that you have an inoperable cancer in the liver. You could just transplant the ‘spare’ liver from your clone and the beauty of it, no rejection.
Is this a sick thought? Keeping a copy of yourself in a tank to use for spares. Or could it be one of the most significant medical advances of this century? Maybe we should consider these issues now in preparation, instead of in retrospect when damage (ethical, genetic…) may already be done.
Check out : http://streams.netscalibur.co.uk:8080/ramgen/~dhs-0022/headless.rm
You’ll need RealPlayer.
A very bored… James
“… your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” – Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park