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Old Jan 1, 2013, 08:36 PM   #1
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Marvelous Modern Medicine

I don't have a link for this, but the question was put in my head a while back via some radio show on NPR.

I think most of the people on this forum agree that when parents deny their children proven modern medicine due to religious reasons or whatever, the parents should get a good slap upside the head. But as medicine progresses and we can fix/cure more and more ailments, where should we draw the line for the common man to decline the treatment?

For instance, let's say in 2050 we find a cure for blindness or deafness. Should we require parents to get this for their children? Assume cost is not an issue, simply the decision to fundamentally alter the child from their born state to a more "average person" state.

If it seems to you that we should, let's pretend in 2100 (I'm moving medicine fast!), we can now guarantee that your child will maintain an IQ of 100 or more, or some social trait that is desired (hard worker for instance). Should a procedure of that nature be mandated.

Feel free to not hang on my specific scenarios as they are just examples. At what level do we find it immoral to require (or strongly suggest such as with vaccinations) a parent impose a procedure on their child? At what point do we go from making life better to making life average?

I don't have an answer, simply soliciting views. As stated before, we're not so much worried about cost... you can presume that it's affordable for all as that's not the core issue. We can also assume that the procedure has to be done by the age of 2 or so, therefore it cannot be an eventual decision by the child.
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Old Jan 1, 2013, 08:39 PM   #2
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Woud cost be an issue long term when all of those people live longer?
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Old Jan 1, 2013, 08:47 PM   #3
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Woud cost be an issue long term when all of those people live longer?
I don't know. Some would likely live longer. But there are many current ailments we have today (blind, deaf, MS, etc) where people live normal length lives.

I was looking at it more from a social perspective. As in today we might look down on somebody that doesn't get their child vaccinated or not taking their child to the doctor for a common ailment for religious reasons, would we in the future look down on those that didn't get their child "unblinded". Is there a point where we keep removing anomolies. I recognize the difference between a vaccine (preventing a future infection) and fixing a birth defect. But I hope you see the point I'm trying to get to.
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Old Jan 1, 2013, 08:52 PM   #4
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I don't know. Some would likely live longer. But there are many current ailments we have today (blind, deaf, MS, etc) where people live normal length lives.

I was looking at it more from a social perspective. As in today we might look down on somebody that doesn't get their child vaccinated or not taking their child to the doctor for a common ailment for religious reasons, would we in the future look down on those that didn't get their child "unblinded". Is there a point where we keep removing anomolies. I recognize the difference between a vaccine (preventing a future infection) and fixing a birth defect. But I hope you see the point I'm trying to get to.
It is a very tricky question, some would say you are playing god, but then so is modern medicine. We have had a lot of advancements but more so in healing people who are sick. Not so much in preventative health.

The question is should we be playing with a un-borns DNA to make the perfect person.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 12:01 AM   #5
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I don't know. Some would likely live longer. But there are many current ailments we have today (blind, deaf, MS, etc) where people live normal length lives.

I was looking at it more from a social perspective. As in today we might look down on somebody that doesn't get their child vaccinated or not taking their child to the doctor for a common ailment for religious reasons, would we in the future look down on those that didn't get their child "unblinded". Is there a point where we keep removing anomolies. I recognize the difference between a vaccine (preventing a future infection) and fixing a birth defect. But I hope you see the point I'm trying to get to.
I can't see the morality in leaving a child with a easily repaired birth defect or disease. If there was real risk (50/50 chances for example) or substantial change (eyes were replaced with Geordi Laforge visors), we might have a moral question about the ethics of radically changing someone's body beyond the effective standard human being without their consent. However, refusing to repair a child's eyesight, when the ability to do so is cheap and relatively risk free would seem like a modern extension of refusing to get a deaf child hearing aids or a child with poor eyesight glasses.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 12:24 AM   #6
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Back in the 90's, I was promised a miracle cure for arthritis- Vioxx.

Me being me- I said, "No ********** pills." My doc then offered physical therapy. It worked.

The only time you offer meds is if you KNOW they work. Chemicals are horrible, and can cause more trouble than they help with.

Pills should be a last resort.

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Old Jan 2, 2013, 05:43 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by leekohler View Post
Back in the 90's, I was promised a miracle cure for arthritis- Vioxx.

Me being me- I said, "No ********** pills." My doc then offered physical therapy. It worked.

The only time you offer meds is if you KNOW they work. Chemicals are horrible, and can cause more trouble than they help with.

Pills should be a last resort.
Good thing you did. Otherwise the 90s would've sucked a little extra.

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Old Jan 2, 2013, 08:08 AM   #8
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I can't see the morality in leaving a child with a easily repaired birth defect or disease. If there was real risk (50/50 chances for example) or substantial change (eyes were replaced with Geordi Laforge visors), we might have a moral question about the ethics of radically changing someone's body beyond the effective standard human being without their consent. However, refusing to repair a child's eyesight, when the ability to do so is cheap and relatively risk free would seem like a modern extension of refusing to get a deaf child hearing aids or a child with poor eyesight glasses.
But there are also many people who live great lives being blind or deaf. Sure they have their day to day issues just like the rest of us do, but when do we stop normalizing people and let them be as they were born? What if in the future we get rid of enough "big birth defects" that we start focusing on other things. "People with red hair/pale skin are more likely to get skin cancer so let's change their 'red hair' gene at birth to alleviate this."

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Originally Posted by leekohler View Post
Back in the 90's, I was promised a miracle cure for arthritis- Vioxx.

Me being me- I said, "No ********** pills." My doc then offered physical therapy. It worked.

The only time you offer meds is if you KNOW they work. Chemicals are horrible, and can cause more trouble than they help with.

Pills should be a last resort.
For the purposes of this thread, we can assume the cures have no negative side effects other than changing the birthed identity of the person. Something maybe closer to home for you, what if they had a "cure" for being gay when you were born and your parents had opted to get the procedure? I'm not saying being gay is a birth defect or needs curing of course. What if when you turned 21 the doctor was required to tell you that this was "fixed" at birth? If your parents had refused the procedure they would have been considered bad parents for doing as such.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 08:26 AM   #9
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But, but... haven't the religious always explained away manufacturing defects as part of "God's Plan"? You wouldn't want to mess with "God's Plan", would you?

Personally, I see no reason not to give everyone the best possible chances of having a full and productive life with all their faculties and organs intact. Life is full of other challenges to keep us interested.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 08:30 AM   #10
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Personally, I see no reason not to give everyone the best possible chances of having a full and productive life with all their faculties and organs intact. Life is full of other challenges to keep us interested.
But where is that line drawn? If for instance, we could detect that "this baby is going to eventually be lazy, we just need to flip this switch to fix it", should we? How can we define a defect vs. a trait that society deems less desired, especially as more and more easily defined defects go away? Is potential alcoholism a defect or just a less desirable trait? What I'm trying to determine is where we think that line should be drawn.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 08:59 AM   #11
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For instance, let's say in 2050 we find a cure for blindness or deafness. Should we require parents to get this for their children? Assume cost is not an issue, simply the decision to fundamentally alter the child from their born state to a more "average person" state.
Assuming cost (or other considerations beyond the parents) is not an issue, then yes, parents should be required to seek these remedies.

IMO, a primary responsibility of a parent is to deliver an off-spring "whole" to adulthood. Any reasonable measure to facilitate that should be a matter of course.

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Old Jan 2, 2013, 09:54 AM   #12
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Realistically, where are we with this now? Parents in the U.S. can refuse vaccinations as far as I know. It starts being a problem as kids go to school, but "religious" objections can allow them to get around the rules that are there to protect the lives of other children as well as their own.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 10:57 AM   #13
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Realistically, where are we with this now?
Realistically, we're not yet capable of enforcing this.

But I saw the OP as spurring a more theoretical discussion than one based on real results.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 11:58 AM   #14
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My point is that we're only going to get to wherever we're going from where we are now. I don't think it's likely that preventative treatments will ever be 100% compulsory, although they may be difficult to avoid.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 02:12 PM   #15
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 02:42 PM   #16
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Consider this: I have really bad eyesight, it came from my dad's side. It would have been great if medical science had been able to identify and fix that when I was born it probably would also have changed who I am, to some extent, possibly good, possibly not.

But once my eyes are fixed, the underlying factor is hidden. No one can know that I will probably pass a weak gene for that. Which is all well and good as long as we have pre-emptive hyper-medicine, but what happens when that is no longer available? Unless you fix the problems at the deep genetic level, they will just get worse. And if you do fix them genetically, is the next generation truly our off-spring?
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Old Jan 3, 2013, 05:05 AM   #17
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I think this issue will be fought over 'lifestyle choices' than treatments per se. In countries with socialized medicine (that includes to some extent the US), there will be impatience with people whose medical conditions arise from smoking, drinking, overeating, not engaging in exercise, or having 'unsafe' sex. This impatience is already expressed in the form of punitive 'sin taxes' on alcohol and cigarettes, and I can see the day when the UK NHS will refuse to treat people who are viewed as creating their own illness.

Of course the problem with taking such a stance is the same as that for requiring medical treatment: The body is so complex, with so many feed-forward and feedback pathways that include both genes and the environment, that it is impossible to determine for certain why an individual has become ill (and whether a given treatment will cure them). Thus, on my part, any treatment should always be a matter for which a patient gives informed consent. In the case of children who have reached the age when they can express their views, they should be asked. If a child cannot understand or express their views, then the parents' views should be considered, but we should not allow parents to treat children as property to do with as only they see fit.
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Old Jan 3, 2013, 06:09 AM   #18
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In the case of children who have reached the age when they can express their views, they should be asked.
It depends on what's being done. If we're talking about something extreme, such as a child being born missing senses or suffering a debilitating effect like cerebral palsy, then yes, do fix it as soon as possible. There isn't a child in the world that would say no to leading a normal, healthy life with everything perfectly functional.

This is an interesting topic, and I wish I came across it sooner, when I had more time. I'll keep my opinion fairly short and sweet for the moment. When it comes to pure genetic manipulation, that's a touchy subject. Assuming there are relatively few side effects (which'll be impossible to predict until we're able to effectively map chain reactions due to tampering with DNA strands), and the work done is only to correct inherited familial defects, I have no problem with it. I doubt anyone would lament the eradication of something like Huntington's Disease from the global gene pool.

Changes such as race, sex, hair color, extra arms, what have you? That's a bit more extreme. It has far more to do with philosophy and morality (and if you really want to get scary about it...fashion) than it does modern medicine.

It's a bunch of questions we need to ask though, because it's going to come sooner than we think. We'll be curing blindness, deafness, and paralysis well before 2050. We've already successfully grafted our first nerves together without any scar tissue in laboratory rats, and repaired damaged spinal cords in a number of people already. I'd honestly be surprised if we're not swapping out eyeballs and rebuilding eardrums by 2035. Deep genetic manipulation is still a ways off, but I'm sure we'll be seeing the first baby steps of that within our lifetimes.

In 40 years, we'll be well on our way to being capable of redefining the human condition.
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Old Jan 3, 2013, 07:45 AM   #19
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Is circumcision to correct a defect? Some people seem to think so, even if they are not Jewish or Moslem.
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Old Dec 5, 2013, 05:31 PM   #20
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Thread revival!

Was this reported here last summer? An amazing 4 minute video from (I believe) July 2013, that I just stumbled across. If this is real, truly marvelous!

Doctors Take A Long Shot And Inject HIV Into Dying Girl. The Reason Why Will Amaze You
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Old Dec 5, 2013, 05:58 PM   #21
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I have thought about the OP's hypothetical many times, with many different scenarios. I still don't know how I feel about it.

It would be nice (at least on the surface) if we could find a way to predict (and subsequently remedy) things like pedophilia, antisocial, psychopathy etc.

But then what happens if we become able to predict and "switch off" things like homosexuality, transgender, bisexuality etc. Are those traits that "need fixing"? I don't have the answer for that one, but my gut says no.

I'm not making a comparison between the two sets of traits, just trying to drive home a point.

I think we'd have more of the same, with entire groups of people fighting tooth and nail for or against these sorts of treatments.

Interesting thought though.
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Old Dec 5, 2013, 08:50 PM   #22
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I have thought about the OP's hypothetical many times, with many different scenarios. I still don't know how I feel about it. ...
What are your views on transhumanism and its premise that medicine and technology could/should be used to overcome some of our basic biological limits of humans?

PostHuman: An Introduction to Transhumanism
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