Advances in Medicine

Advances in Medicine

Progress presents options and quandaries. How shall we treat our bodies? Shall we embrace every “advance”?

Organs are becoming more transplantable. Doctors are figuring out how to overcome normal organ rejection. (Why did our bodies come that way?? No worry: genetic engineering will soon relieve our descendants of that inconvenient trait.). Organs are becoming cheaper and easier to produce, using pigs as hosts. Markets in organs are becoming irresistible; some nations, notably The Netherlands and China, are taking control of dead bodies, making them property of the state, for the purposes of organ procurement.

All these advancements will force each person to decide what their limit will be. Will we tolerate being 10%, 40%, or 100% replacement organs? When will we stop feeling like us? Two new corneas, two new AC ligaments, either cadaveric or artificial, a heart, a liver, lungs, kidneys, a pancreas, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, muscles, mammaries. If all the organs came from the same donor, would we wonder if we were them? Or feel safely “us” because our brain was still ours and we consider personality to be the root of identity? Or is personality the root of our identity? (Some people foresee a means of transplanting, in a sense, brains, which we’ll consider later. Then who would we be?)

If all the organs cam from one pig, would we fell “piggy”? If all the joints were plastic and titanium, would we begin to feel mechanical, and regret the change? If we felt no regret, should we? How would, or should, we consider someone else who has gone all the way to organ, joint and muscle replacements? Are they authentic? Are they “them”? What wisdom or logic might we employ to set a modification limit for ourselves when finances are sufficient and research has reduced the risks to nearly nothing?

I think it can be proved that most people will not set any limit. But how could thoughtful, body-respecting, eternally-minded people set a limit? What is a proper limit? How can someone who does not know this for himself be expected to make a right decision for his child? How can such a person articulate any wisdom for society if put in the position of legislator?

Returning to the brain: how could brain transplants be done? Brain wiring and downloads. An internet connection makes all experiences, stored or live, available. (Refer to the book, More than Human.) Literally see through another’s eyes. His retinal scans show up on your visual cortex. Know the euphoria of conquering Everest through the brain of one who is. Even sexual experience could be transferred, taking porn to a new level. A person could opt to live, taste, hear, feel the sensations of a single source being, or cast about for different sources on different days. Choose Donald Trump on Monday, George Bush on Tuesday, Yo Yo Ma of Wednesday, Kobe Bryant on Thursday and Mother Teresa on Friday. Would this be wrong? Why or why not? What wisdom might we call upon to deny or receive such tools and capacities?

Knowing who we are as human beings, what our purpose is, and why we have bodies would be helpful. This knowledge comes from religion and philosophy. “Know Thyself”. We need to know these thing more as our mastery over ourselves through technology’s tools increase in effectiveness and decrease in cost.

Brain implants are still expensive and their broad availability is years away. But drug treatments present quandaries today. Antidepressant use in America quadrupled in a very short span of years. Large numbers of students at some colleges use Ritalin when studying. It makes them more alert. These common drugs are being used as pick-me-ups, and study aids instead of treatments for dire depression and inattention originally envisioned.

How shall we choose or deny drugs? Shall we decline in sexual capacity or accept drugs to keep ourselves at the 25 year-old level of drive? Should we tolerate sleep interruption, muscle fatigue and grief when safe and cheap drugs beckon?

Self-limitation is admirable. Even reprobates admire the lone person on their crew who restrains themselves, say from lewd language, or use of coffee or alcohol. The person who has no taboos is formless, driven with the wind and tossed by their appetites and instincts. People without limits are children. If we cannot set a limit on our personal use of drugs and implants, we too will be children, and lose the right to be call men, adults. We will be, as C.S. Lewis said, “men without chests”.

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