Medical Technology

Assessing Modern Medicine and its Effects on our Future

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"Assessing Modern Medicine and its Effects on our Future"
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Through enhanced medical knowledge, technology, and the easy lives we have made for ourselves, a situation has developed which demands our attention. This is a new situation, something that has only just begun with the advent of modern medicine in the last 100 or so years, and is even more recent in the developing world. What is happening is that we are passing on harmful characteristics in our genes which would naturally have been removed in the past. Hundreds of thousands of years of trial and error through successive generations have removed the most immediately dangerous genetic conditions from our collective gene pool. But today we circumvent the forces which removed those dangerous conditions. There is, in effect, no intelligence overseeing the human genetic transfer. This is not good.

Let's imagine something very basic, say an ingrown nail. Say a genetic condition exists which greatly increases the likelihood of a severely ingrown toenail. Without treatment, this condition often leads to infection, and can result in impaired mobility and hobbling. It can even develop into cancer, which may or may not be remedied by amputation. 20,000 years ago a human being with a severely infected toe would have a serious problem. If that person were to lose the ability to walk, or were to get a systemic infection, chances are he wouldn't survive long enough to mate, even if he could find a willing mate. Unable to migrate with the tribe, unable to hunt or gather... in the hard life of our ancestors, this person would not survive very long. And that genetic profile involving the susceptibility towards infection would die with him. No genetic transfer of the gene means a less likely chance that another person will suffer from the same condition. Eventually, through this process, the condition is removed from the human gene pool. Nature proceeds by this method with all creatures. It is the sick and weak members of the herd who are captured first as prey by the wolves. In any population governed by the laws of nature, it is the diseased who fall first, and more often than not, they fall before reproducing. The end result is a healthier population.

Today, we have an entirely different situation. We use technology and medical understanding to bypass our physical health problems. Yet we do not eliminate those problems. On the contrary, we increase their likelihood by ensuring that they are passed on. A person with an ingrown toenail can have it treated, can avoid infection, and will not lose mobility. He will certainly not have a lessened chance of finding a mate, and thereby will pass on the disorder to offspring. (Unless he comes across a strict foot fetishist)

Now, an ingrown nail is not a very big deal, because it is easily treated, and has only minor repercussions. But this same situation that I've just described applies to life threatening illnesses. Today, people with very severe medical conditions who in the past would not naturally survive into adolescence receive extensive modern medical treatment, and often reproduce. By doing so, they add their disorders to the human gene pool, passing on their condition and ensuring that there will be other people with the same sickness for generations to come. The exponential rate at which we are reproducing puts an exclamation point on this situation.

Theoretically, one person with a genetically transferable illness who reproduces today means 500 people with that illness in just 300 years. (This is assuming 2 children per couple, 30 years per generation, and a 50% rate of genetic transfer) That is 500 people who will consume countless extra energy, attention and equipment. That is 500 burdened families, and hundreds of saddened lives. All because one person, 300 years ago, wanted to have their own kid. Now apply the same reproductive rate to those 500 people, and you will realize the scope of the problem.

Now, some people reading this may start to get uncomfortable, thinking we are heading into some discussion of Nazi-type eugenics. We are not. Human rights are unalienable, and that means granted to all, including the sick, and the right to reproduce is a fundamental natural right. I am not suggesting anyone be forced into anything. What I am talking about the development of a collective genetic conscience.

Our world is very, very different than the world of our ancestors, and more significantly, it is very new. We don't know what the long term effects of many of our daily modern actions will be, because we just started doing them yesterday. We should be considering the implications of our actions, most certainly the ones which suggest broad sweeping implications. And when we consider them, we need to stop thinking selfishly. We are a single species, a unity, and we need to start acting like it. One person may want to have children, but is that person willing to accept the difficulty and pain that they could be generating for 1000's of others in the future to come? If they are, they are a perfect example of the egoism that defines our day.

Ideally, this should not be addressed in the arena of law, but should instead be a matter of personal ethics. People who are carriers of inheritable diseases need to take personal responsibility for the role they play in the welfare of humanity. Their desire to see their own offspring is not more important than the desire of thousands of future people to live a healthy life. If a person has a serious genetically transferable disease, and they want children, then they should adopt a child. There are millions of unwanted children the world over who are in dire need of care. That act of sacrifice today will mean infinitely less suffering tomorrow. This is how a responsible member of a community acts, and they would be a better person for it.

With the advent of a complex understanding of the genetic code, which we are only approaching, new ethical questions will surface. One of the effects of this knowledge is that we will be able to identify carriers of dangerous genes and genetic defects early in their lives. This offers the opportunity to prevent these genetic defects from growing in the collective gene pool, preventing future suffering, and preventing the use of countless energy and resources, and no one need be harmed to do it. These carriers simply need to make the choice to not reproduce. We have circumvented the intelligence naturally inherent in evolution with our own methods of medicine. These methods do not currently consider the needs of the human race as a whole, but only the desires of the individual.

We need to develop a collective genetic conscience, as a protection for all people, especially for those generations yet to come.

More about this author: J. Santari

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