One of the major areas that I have been concentrating some of my research on is the moral and ethical dilemmas a severe influenza pandemic might likely present us with. Medical ethicists have been tasked with defining treatment/triage criteria, rationing of scarce vaccine and antivirals, and even more scarce ventilators.
So when I ran across the following two articles this week I took note of the medical and social moral/ethical dilemmas they present us. They are actually what inspired the creation of a new post category for this blog, "It's a Brave New World".
08 Nov 2007 13:43:36 GMT
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - A rise in healthy people popping pills to boost performance in exams or work, raises long-term ethical and safety concerns about the effects of such treatments, British doctors said on Thursday.
The British Medical Association (BMA) wants a public debate about the risks and benefits of using drugs to improve memory and concentration, sometimes called "cognitive enhancement".
The ability of prescription drugs and medical procedures to improve intellectual performance is likely to increase significantly in the next 20 to 30 years as technology advances.
"We know that there is likely to be a demand by healthy individuals for this treatment," Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee said at the launch of a discussion paper on the issue.
"However, given that no drug or invasive medical procedure is risk free, is it ethical to make them available to people who are not ill?"
Surreptitious use of brain-boosting prescription drugs is particularly common in the United States and likely to increase in Britain, the BMA said
And this from cnsnews.com:
By Deepak Mahaan
November 08, 2007
New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - In a new twist to the outsourcing for which India has become renowned, poor Indian women are renting out their wombs to foreigners.
Surrogate motherhood -- carrying to term and giving birth to another woman's baby - once was limited in India to helping close relatives who couldn't complete a pregnancy due to medical difficulties.
But leading gynecologist Dr. Kamla Selvaraj says it's now becoming a regular "profession" in India, with more and more women willing to carry babies for others, for a fee.
India has for years been providing foreigners with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment at a cheaper rate than the equivalent services in Western countries.
Surrogacy comes in when the biological mother is unable to carry the child. Alternatively, a surrogate also provide eggs when the woman wanting a child is unable to do so herself.
Apart from low-cost IVF treatment, India also is offering surrogate mothers at a considerably lower price than couples would pay in the U.S. or Europe.
Women's counselor Harleen Ahluwalia says surrogacy cases are estimated to have nearly doubled in the past three years.
"Foreigners find Indian legal procedures easy and less exploitative, unlike [in the] U.S., where any complication could cost a fortune," she said.
Beyond the general interest these issues raised in me, and their (minor) connection to a PanFlu issue I am actively working on, I also have a personal connection to these issues. I went through fertility treatments to have a second child that ultimately were unsuccessful so I understand the women who avail themselves of an option, infertility can drive a couple to try nearly any option. As a Libertarian I feel that a woman has the right to direct her own body, and that inherently includes "renting" her womb. As a mother I find the idea of carrying a baby for nine months and then handing him/her over to "another" mother to be beyond my comprehension.
The mental enhancement issue has a different personal angle. Were it readily available to me I would be there in a heartbeat. Not to be flippant about the issue, but I would certainly take advantage were there meaningfully effective pharmaceuticals that I could get, even if I had to pay for them out of my own pocket. But that highlights the very thing this issue raises, there will be those who choose to do it, and who have the means, and then there will be those who won't or can't. Ah—but just because there will be those who won't or can't does that preclude me the option of this choice?
Interesting moral and ethical questions for a Friday evening.