Where we get fit and spin (wool)

I know I just posted recently on the new easy, convenient prenatal genetic test that is just around the corner, but I can’t get it off my mind. The reason is what history is showing us. We have enjoyed many medical miracles in the last 50 years. The social impact of those medical changes has, in my opinion, gone unnoticed. The number one is the overwhelming trend from “we can” to “we have to”, to the point where it is considered immoral or criminal not to.

What am I talking about? Every medical advance, unless it is prohibitively expensive, and sometimes even then, becomes mandatory. Vaccinations are a perfect example. Now, don’t get me wrong, in general I am in favor of vaccinations. I’m very glad I never had whooping cough, measles, mumps, etc. However, vaccines are now mandatory. You could be charged for neglect if you don’t get your child vaccinated. Sounds good, right? Until we come up against the issue of inoculating children against venereal disease. The argument is out there that it should be criminal to not vaccinate children against HPV. This is a huge moral issue for many people, but for the pragmatists-because we can, we have to.

All right, I can see you still don’t see a problem with this. How about animals? You can now be charged with neglect for not getting proper veterinary care for them. What is proper care? 17$ monthly flea treatments? $35 dollar monthly heart worm prevention? How about 4-5 “essential” vaccines that might run you over $100 dollars. People are abandoning their animals rather than face those kinds of costs, or having them seized by the SPCA. Now shelters have to pick that cost up, and consider the outcry against killing animals, we have shelters being charged with neglect because they can’t afford to feed and care for all these animals to that standard. Because we can, we have to.

We can keep people alive under circumstances that were never possible before, with machines and medicine, yet we are complaining that health care is driving us to financial ruin. Most of these people being kept alive by extraordinary means are being done so by Medicaid or Medicare, as no one else can afford it. Because we can, we have to.

This same logic is driving abortion. If you can find out ahead of time that someone is going to need extraordinary care, abort them and avoid the issue. If you don’t think that is going on right this minute, look at the statistics on Down’s syndrome. Why has there been a 95% drop in the incidence of children born with Downs? Is it because we can cure it? Sure, by making sure they aren’t born. If you don’t think pressure is put on these mothers to “do something” if the test is positive, you have your head in the sand. Once we know something, we are responsible for it. Once we know more about the genetic status of an infant, it will become immoral to bring that child into the world. Because we can, we have to.

I can’t say I have a great answer. Our knowledge has brought us terrible burdens. When we talk about “Obama’s death panels”, we are dancing around a reality that none of us wants to delve into. We have the technical capabilities to do almost anything, if not now, shortly in the future. But that ability comes at a price that has to be paid somehow. Either the market dictates what is or isn’t done, or we come up with other ways to ration or rationalize it. Right now, to most people, abortion looks like the easy fix. Get rid of the expensive problems in advance, rather than deal with the thorny issue of limited resources. But why is killing people at one end of life all right, but letting them die at the other wrong?

This moral dilemma weighs on me a lot. “Because we can, we have to” drives much of the health care debate, but anyone can see there is no way to satisfy that. What is happening to our animals is happening to us. We can’t afford it, the governments can’t afford it, but morally, how do you say no? And is killing our children the answer? When life and death were in God’s hands, it was sad and hard to deal with, but we were off the hook, morally. We took all these things into our hands, putting us in the moral hot seat. It makes me glad I’m not God, because I don’t see any good answers, at least in the short term. I usually like to write articles where there is an answer in the end. I like to ask questions I have an answer for. This one, I have no answer for, but I think we are coming up with “solutions” without even looking at the implications of what we are doing, especially morally. We are killing the babies since that seems like the easiest answer. You don’t have to look at them- you can pretend it isn’t real. You don’t have to look someone in the eyes and pull the plug. We’ve rationalized it into not even being killing.

Comments on: "From “You Can” to “You Have to”" (1)

  1. Hello. First of all, thanks for liking and commenting on my Euthanasia post. The road from “we can” to “we have to” is grey and full of ethical questions and dilemmas. You’re right that there are no easy answers and that makes it worse. While those of us in medical and related professions have to deal with these dilemmas more often, the questions affect everyone and we all need to be aware of the discussions, not, as you said so well, bury our heads in the sand.

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