Meet the leading thinkers in bioethics today, who are pondering the morality of our capabilities in medical science. Part 5/5.
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Dr. Aulisio: I'm also concerned that we need to be cautious as we move forward with different technological advances, because we need to be humble enough to know that things may happen that we don’t anticipate. And sometimes those consequences are so severe that the old phrase, the genie is out of the bottle. So, this is how I would look at it. Male: Another principle in ethics deals with claiming ignorance. But is this a morally acceptable defense when things go array? Dr. Aulisio: The critics say, but there's a law of unintended consequences here. There are many things that could happen that we simply can't anticipate. This is erring, cognitive erring that we just don’t understand. The folks who want to push forward, says yeah, but if we use good science, we can control and reasonably foresee what kinds of negative consequences will be? What kinds of positive consequences will be? Male: So where do we go from here? According to Dr. Aulisio, first we have to make sure that we are asking the right questions. Dr. Aulisio: So I think it’s critically important that we understand that there are many different levels of question at which we can ask what and why. And be clear that what this course we're engaging in. we talk past each other and add each other too much, I think, when we fail to do that. Male: Another important question is if federal money is funding research, shouldn’t the result of the research benefit all people and not necessarily just those who can pay the asking price? Male2: Well, this gets to issues of social justice. And so one way of framing, it is access to medical care. First of all, in the United States, there are people who don’t have access to their basic medical care. Not high technology medical care, just basic, because they don’t have money or insurance. But assuming that everyone was covered, then the question is, are some of these especially expensive high technologies going to be available to everybody? Male: Dr. Berg believes that while the ultimate goal of medical science may not be eternal life, there are tremendous opportunities for some sort of middle ground. Dr. Berg: I have no interest in living forever. But the idea that you can live say, 100 years and be perfectly healthy during that time period. So you wouldn’t deal with all the illnesses and frailties of old age, that is a very attractive concept. And I think too, almost all people, there are many people who say, I want to live this long or this long. I don’t want to live that long, very few people would say, but I would be fine being sick during that time period. So the idea that you could use the technology, not necessarily to increase life by some huge span, but to increase health up to say maybe the very end of life. That’s got to be attractive concept. And I think that even personally, I would say, what a wonderful idea if we could do something like that. Male: But one of the central questions in bio-ethics is what can we achieve and at what price? What we can do and what we should do. Dr. Berg: Now do I want to do it at the cost to infant mortality? Or at a cost to only the richest or the rich can have that and everyone else is just even that much sicker? No, I'm not willing to give that up. I'm not willing, personally, to give up on ideas of social justice in order just to have some people be healthier longer. Male: The questions are many, if there are significant differences between medical solutions available to the rich and poor now. Is it the responsibility of the bio-medical community to proceed in a way that ensures that everyone rich and poor will benefit from its research going forward into areas such as genetic engineering and life saving medicines? MaryLynn: We can choose to hide our heads and not acknowledge the incredible advances in medical science. We can just hope that other people get involved and make the right decisions. But the study of ethics and philosophy is within the reach of everyone. On som