THERE is a great need today for moral and ethical guidance on medical issues. All Lou frequently one reads headlines the "'first" operation of its kind, to find on further persual that the surgeon openly admits to experimentation. But perhaps what is forgotten amid the euphoria of such success and achievement, is that it is a human being who is being experimented on and, in many cases, there has to be a cadaver from which the organs are removed, in the case of some organ transplants.
Research and development are a necessary part of any profession, but blatant experimentation must he looked at with a critical eye. is it fair and right to subject a person to a media sensational, ego boosting name making operation and expect him to comply with a rigid regime of after care for the rest of his life. Is this a "normal" one, with the very likely iatrogenic consequences of such aggressive surgery and treatment.
The media is not above reproach. Recently a young child, who had one of the first liver transplants died. In the same news broadcast, several other children awaiting donor livers were portrayed. There plight was pitiful, but no mention was given to the possible causes of their terminal liver conditions. Parents and would-be parents, want to know what pre-desposed their illness. Surely the media has a duty to give balanced information?
Infertility is a devastating reality for many couples. For those with sufficient capital it need not be a long term problem. There is artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation. What is meant by infertility? Surely a definition is needed to help clarify the situation. Is it the inablily to conceive due to too few or no ova, and or sperm being produced, or the absence or derangement of the reproduction organs in which the foetus can grow?
For the uninitiated this is a dilemma. The media seeks out sensationalism at the expense of all the facts and truths. The Church, on the other hand, is guilty of the sin of omission in not offering a stance on this. Embryo transfer has raised both moral and legal questions about the "natural" parentage, when artificial insemination involves a donor.
Advances in genetic engineering have offered the hope of removal of defective genes, and the possibility of preselection of the sex of the offspring. One can visualise the other potential dilemmas, resulting from other forms of genetic manipulation. Is it going to be allowed to continue unabated until someone produces a "monster"?
Or will this he camouflaged by the argument that genetic screening will provide early detection of such and then the question of "therapeutic" abortion is raised? The arguments will continue, but meanwhile this research and development progress, leading one to believe in a society whose health care can be at the root of many ailments.
Illich argues "the proliferation of medical agents is health — denying not only or primarily because of the specific
functional or organic lesions produced by doctors, but because they produce dependence". He warns that the nemesis of modern medicine underlines the point that the cure or removal of specific diseases does not in itself guarantee the enhancement of health.
A person is composed of a mind and body. The borderline between physical and mental health is indistinct and impossible to define. The identification and treatment of disease fits well into a sciencebased medicine, but defining the norms for health are much more subjective and speculative.
How often has one heard the old cliché "a healthy mind in a healthy body". This is borne out of the fail that many of todays illnesses are stress-related, suggesting that if one's mind is not in tune with everyday events and activities, pathological consequences can develop.
For those whose mental health is dependent on spiritual wellbeing, that is the person who can live and wants to live with his/her own conscience, todays medical happenings are a great source of worry and cause much spiritual pain. Many have been indoctrinated with a "black and white" religion, which has resulted in their inability to think and assimilate clearly any other view point.
Living in todays society and being able to cope in tomorrows world, the individual is illequipped and will need spiritual guidance in realistic terms.
What is today's theologian doing about it?