Science, Medicine, or Politics?
by Beverly Nuckols on June 17, 2010 at 3:14 PM
Why is a family doctor blogging on a political website? Besides the fact that I have an opinion about everything (and claim to not only have invented the right wing conspiracy, but to be the hot air under the right wing), science and medicine are constant themes in many political controversies.
Many people might assume that debates on medical ethics are limited to abortion, end of life issues or healthcare access and finance as in the “Obama-care.” However, consider the ethics of using cutting-edge medicine and biotechnology for the cure and prevention of disease and the use of the same research and technology for the enhancement of beauty, strength, and intelligence or to improve humanity. Each day’s news brings new scientific discoveries and new medical possibilities. These developments often raise seemingly new questions at the intersection of biomedical technology and the traditional philosophical realm of what it means to be human and medicine’s traditional first principle of “first do no harm.”
For example, both the New York Times and the Huffington Post have reported on transhumanism and the “Human + Singularity Summit” led by Ray Kurzweil at Harvard last weekend. Transhumanism is not just a push to be well, more beautiful, more powerful or even perfect. The transhumanism or “human +” (“human plus”) subculture advocates for the intentional and directed change of humans and our bodies in the quest of immortality and freedom from our body’s limits and moving on to the next stage in human evolution or “post humanism.” We might wish to evaluate whether it is right or wrong (or merely foolish) to expend resources in an attempt to change our bodies or to live forever. The hard questions are whether transhumanism causes death, whether future generations are effectively enslaved by changes that they cannot consent to, and whether it is appropriate to use tax money (property taken from individuals by government).
So, instead of exploring these new questions, why do I find myself involved in politics and drawn back into debates on abortion, euthanasia, and conscience?
Thirty to forty years ago, ethics questions would have been addressed to philosophers, theologians, and doctors. We would have talked, written and read about medical ethics, human rights and religious duty. The deliberation has gradually - and deliberately - been taken over by lawyers, politicians, public health bureaucrats and scientists interested in controlling behavior and profiting from lucrative patents. Ethics has become “Bioethics,” based on utilitarian secular values and the formal study of whose right to life, liberty, and property can be infringed for “the greater good.” A small group of bioethicists, particularly those formerly associated with John Podesta’s “Center for American Progress,” are now part of President Obama’s administration. These and many others profit financially from patents on research funded by the government. They favor policy in the form of laws, regulations, and bureaucracies increase their own and government’s power.
I believe that the conservative viewpoint as far as government involvement through laws, regulations, and policies should follow the same basic ethic principle: protect the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. If no one is killed, if no one (including the children of tomorrow) is enslaved, and if no one’s property is taken from them, then government should not be involved. The correlation of this is that our laws must be designed to protect our fellow humans and their inalienable rights.