Essay on Medicine and Science: The Moral Aspect
Science and medicine are always developing due to constant experimenting and trial running. When running trials and never done before procedures, we never want to think about children being the subjects. Children are a symbol of new beginnings and hope, so the thought of putting this emblem of possibility at risk can be scary. But sometimes, we need to risk this in order to gain more findings and expand our medical and scientific systems. Over the span of just a few decades, through research and trials that have been done on children, we are now able to help save the lives of In the novel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, the theme of using new and young life to in order to help a newer generation is explored.
The book, set in a dystopian universe where human clones are created in order to donate their organs. It follows the life of one specific clone named Kathy, who recalls her time at a boarding school for donors. Normally, when one thinks of babies and young children, they think of new life and new beginnings. Some may even argue that children are completely innocent and research should never be conducted at their expense due to its invasive nature. In spite of this, at times we must risk this as it is important for us to continue conducting research; this aids in the advancement of science and medicine as well as assists in saving the lives of others, helping future generations of children just like them.
For the past few decades, we have practiced treatment plans that are noninvasive yet are linked to the birth of a baby. In the case of Marissa and Anissa Ayala, there was bone marrow shared. In the year 1990, 16-year-old Anissa Ayala was diagnosed with leukemia and in need of a bone marrow transplant. With no possible donors and desperate for time, her parents decided to procreate a child in hopes of it being a match. According to UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital’s list of types of BMT donors, there is a one in four, or 25 percent, chance that any brother or sister will have inherited the same genes that would allow for a transplant like this to work (The University of California). Though the chances were slim, Marissa ended up being a match. Many people argue that it was unethical for the parents to even consider giving birth to another baby for the sole purpose of saving another. However, this was their final hope. If it weren’t for Marissa being born when she was, Anissa wouldn’t have survived. For the past two years prior to that, Marissa’s condition was becoming worse and worse and no one was coming up to be a match.
Marissa’s life was vital to save the life of her sister Anissa. Fast forwarding nearly 30 years after the birth of Marissa Ayala, there was a similar case. In 2014, 22-month-old Ryven Harris, born with an extremely rare genetic conditon, Wiskott-Aldritch Syndrome, was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. According to the article, Made for Each Other: The Parents Who Are Having a Baby to Save Their Son's Life - by Using IVF to Create His Perfect Genetic Donor, “his only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant, except the toddler has a very rare blood type and can not find a match, despite being on a registry of 15 million people” and “(Thackray). In this case, the parents, with the help of new medical practice and technology, chose to use In-vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to create a perfect match. In vitro-fertilization is a medical technique where a woman’s eggs and male’s sperm are combined in a laboratory for the creation of embryos (Infertility Association).
Many do not believe IVF is an ethical option for infertility. However, it was necessary in this case. What were the parents supposed to do? Just let their poor son die, simply because of the fact that he was born with a rare blood type? That would be unethical. It would be a failure on our part, as doctors, to allow something like that to happen. So while many might argue that these kinds of treatments are unethical, we must think about the Anissas’ and Ryvens’ of the world, who are the future of our generation and who don’t deserve to simply be let down.
Though invasive, organ transplant surgeries performed on children have created a tremendous improvement in the world of organ donation. Just three days after the first adult heart transplant, conducted by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the first pediatric heart transplant was performed by Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz. The infant only lived 6 hours after that (Medical Center). And 17 years after this, a heart transplant was performed on a 10-day old baby to which it survived for just 18 days. That same year, the first xenotransplant heart procedure was performed on Baby Fae. She survived only 21 days after her surgery. Though all of the patients of each of these cases died shortly after, their deaths are not in vain. Each of them aided in milestones that helped advance the realm of organ transplantation. And as organ transplantation comes out of its infancy, this is proven to be true. In fact, according to the Health Resources & Service Administration, just last year 1,895 children received transplants (Services Administration).
Over the span of just a few decades, we have been able to properly conduct organ transplants. Now, fewer children have to suffer from the terrible conditions that they were born with, lead on a healthy life and possibly change the world the way in which we know they could. In Never Let Me Go, the clone students attending the boarding school, Hailsham are raised to donate their organs. At one point, one of the teachers there, Ms. Lucy, after being asked if she ever smoked replies: “It’s not good that I smoked. It wasn’t good for me so I stopped it. But what you must understand is that for you, all of you, it’s much, much worse to smoke than it ever was for me. You’re...special” (Ishiguro 68). The clones know of the fact that they are being raised for organ transplantation. For this reason, the teacher reminds them of the importance of them staying healthy. If they do not do so, then their organs cannot be given up for transplantation, which can affect the lives of so many other children down the road. Future generations of people are depending on the clones to save them.
In addition to organ transplantation, stem cells, though intrusive, are helping save the lives of many children all around the world. Though many people make the argument that stem cells are intrusive, not all forms are. According to Healthline Media, there are several types of stem cells, including embryonic stem cells, non-embryonic stem cells, and cord blood stem cells (Cafasso). Each of the three types can involve the use of infants and though two are invasive, there is one that is non intrusive but just as helpful. The only FDA approved type, cord blood stem cells were once discarded as a waste product after birth.
Though at one point disposed of as waste material, scientists and doctors are realizing stem cells can now be used to treat various blood-related diseases. According to the FDA, “Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells that can be used in the treatment of patients with blood cancers such as leukemias and lymphomas, as well as certain disorders of the blood and immune systems, such as sickle cell disease and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (FDA). Think about all the people we have helped and can still be helped by this. Why would we throw away something so powerful? Something that has the ability to change the lives of so many unfortunate people?
In order to help advance our science and medical systems, sometimes we have to risk the lives of the young so that we can gain a better understanding of how to save kids like them in the future. Though they are so young, they can be the start of something that can change the lives of so many. If we don’t conduct medical research on children, then we are allowing forthcoming generations to continue suffering from the same diseases as them. Nothing will change. Though it can be scary to even consider putting a child at potential risk today “simply” for medicine, we must think about the type of changes that we want for the potential leaders of tomorrow.