Meet the leading thinkers in bioethics today, who are pondering the morality of our capabilities in medical science. Part 3/5.
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MaryLynn: People of many different faiths, traditions around the world believe that we have been designed and created by an intelligent supreme or God. And that both our physical and mental capabilities as well as our imperfections have been bestowed upon us by God and therefore should be accepted with grace and dignity. Now, just barely across the threshold of the 21st century, human kind finds itself in a pivotal point in history. Bio-medical technology is moving towards the capability to redesign life. To eliminate the imperfections and to extend the physical limitations of previous generations. Many fear what is now being called designer babies. Human beings designed in the image and the likeness and with the capabilities that their parents desire. Male: With the advances in the genome project, it will be possible to select, modify and manipulate the genes of an embryo. One of the consequences of these advances is the possibilities for parents to customize their babies. Dr. Polkinghorne: Yes, that’s quite a strong utopian feeling, I think. And the application of science, the miracle advances in genetics, encourage people to think that they can really design a baby. They don’t like the phrase, but they like the idea. Male: While the ability to manipulate genes makes it possible to design human beings without genetic defects that cause disease and illness, it also makes possible the ability to order up children with specific characteristics such as the ability to be a great baseball player or a great mathematician. Dr. Polkinghorne: That’s again a realm of fantasy, seeking fulfillment for yourself through somebody else. It’s essentially using another person as instrument for your own self fulfillment. That's ultimately not only illusion but it’s an abuse of that person. And we have to be careful not to be caught up in a false utopianism where it says that science will solve all our problems for us. Male: Every parent wants their baby to healthy, strong, and beautiful. But Dr. Polkinghorne asserts that while this may seem like a naïve and harmless wish, it may have severe social consequences. He points out that since the product of technology is often available only to the wealthy, there is a possibility that society will end up more divided than it already is. Dr. Polkinghorne: It may eventually come to scientific advances two types of humanity, the gene rich who have all sorts of gifts and so on. And then the gene poor, who are not up to date very much. That’s slightly apocalyptic version I think, but it does point to a danger that maybe there. And certainly globally, of course we see this. Male: Dr. Polkinghorne, another bio ethicist struggle with questions such as, how do we ensure that medicine and medical technology will be use to benefit all of humanity? Dr. Polkinghorne: Its one of the big questions about new forms of medical advancement is not just, should we use it in the United States or should we use it in Europe, but what can we provide this sort of benefit in some acceptable way to people in poor and developing countries. I mean all the problems that have been for example making treatment for age available in Africa as well as in develop countries. It illustrates the kind of problem. Male: As we witnessed, those with AIDS in Africa and other underdeveloped countries do not have the same access to the medicines afforded those in the United States and Europe. We have clearly failed to make medical technology available to those living in poverty around the world. Dr. Polkinghorne and others believe that religious communities should become actively involved in the ethical discussions around medical technology. Dr. Polkinghorne: There is a global responsibility, and I think the religious communities have a particular role in this thing in witnessing to the unity of the human beings in the sense that it isn't just for meeting all our needs but meeting their needs as well. Male: And then there's the ability we