Introduce the topic of genetic engineering in casual conversation and the       conversation seizes to be casual.  Suddenly there is a contest of speakers.  Several points of views on the matter advanced with “proof”; each trying to sound more emphatic and convincing than the other.  For some, genetic engineering is a scientific breakthrough that can help address food deficiency and health issues.   For others, the science is tantamount to Frankenstein; the creation of a monster that cannot be controlled and eventually brings ruination (American College Dictionary).  There also some that argue along religious beliefs; maintaining that genetic engineering is nothing more than man’s attempt at playing God. 

     The purpose of this blog is to engage in an informed discussion of genetic engineering.  The blog will explore three fields where genetic engineering is used:   agriculture, medicine and sports.  In each of the areas, the pros and cons will be discussed. Two key questions will also be explored:  Is genetic engineering regulated?  What are the guidelines?  To conclude, the moral implications of genetic engineering will be examined. 

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

            How do we feed all the people in the world?  For hundreds of years, there has been anxiety that our numbers might outstrip food supply (Evans, xi).  With genetic engineering technology, developing countries can look at ways of producing more food.  It makes it possible to combine characteristics from genetically different plants and to incorporate desired traits into crop lines and animals, producing transgenic, or more commonly known as genetically modified (GM), varieties (Wright 306). 

            Two of the more widely accepted genetically altered products to be marketed are corn and soybeans that are resistant to Roundup (chemically, glyphosate).  The chemically resistant crops allow farmers to use a no till technique.  One of the more exciting developments in biotechnology is sorghum (an important African Crop).  This plant is resistant to a parasitic plant known as witch weed, which infects many crops in Africa.   Other GM crops include corn, potatoes and cotton resistant to insects, rice that is resistant to bacterial blight disease and trees that grows very rapidly. 

            Biotechnology in agriculture is used to address another challenge faced by the world’s growing population – finding clean energy sources.  Along with addressing food insecurity, the technology is being used as a strategy for biofuel production in China (Xie, G., Peng, L. 2011).  Over the past three decades, a fossil-energy based economy has been booming in China.  As a result, its energy consumption has doubled and has made China the second biggest energy consumer in the world. 

            The report by Xie and Peng explain that biomass utilization is increasingly considered as a practical way for sustainable energy supply and long-term environment care around the world.  In China, because of food security concerns, starch or sugar-based bioethanol and edible-oil-derived biodiesel are harshly restricted for large scale production.  Using food residues from food crops would be a potential alternative, but the biomass process is unacceptably expensive.  Breeding energy crops is a promising solution.  Energy crops are defined by a high yield for both food and biofuel purposes.  Here we have agricultural engineering addressing two needs at once (food insecurity and clean energy).  For biofuel production, rice, wheat, maize, sorghum and miscanthus are elevated for biomass production.  The modification of plant cell walls is what leads to efficient biomass degradation and conversion. 

The Good

            China has emerged as a leader in plant biotechnology (Wright 307).  A recent notable accomplishment – they sequenced the rice genome.   As illustrated by China, biotech crop research can benefit developing countries.  Here are four goals of agricultural technology:

1)      To add resistance to diseases and pests that attach important tropical plants

2)      To increase tolerance to environmental conditions (such as drought & high salt levels)

3)      To improve nutritional value of commonly eaten crops

4)      To produce pharmaceutical products in ordinary crops

The environmental benefits of bioengineering are very important.  They include a reduction in the use of pesticides (because crops are already resistant to pests), less erosion (no tilling cropping is aided by herbicide resistant crops) and less environmental damage with bringing more land to production (existing agricultural land will bring more food).

 The Bad

            The benefits of BT crops are many; however, the concerns cannot be easily discounted.  A major environmental concern is environmental.  If pests are greatly exposed to the toxins or other resistance incorporated into a plant, there is always the possibility that they will develop resistance to the toxin (Wright 308).  This would render the toxin useless as an independent pesticide.  Another concern is ecological.  Pollen from BT crops can be spread to nearby areas where beneficial insects might pick at them and be killed by the toxins.   Also, because genes for herbicide resistance or tolerance to drought can be spread to ordinary crops, there is the possibility of creating new “super weeds”.

            Good safety issues are also a great concern.  Transgenic crops can contain proteins of different organisms triggering unexpected allergic responses.  For example, a Brazil nut gene added to soybeans was able to make a protein in soybeans that induced an allergic reaction in individuals allergic to Brazil nuts. 

 The Ugly

The UN recently declared that the famine in Somalia has ended, but warned that the crisis is not yet over (New York Times 2/4/2012).  The famine that killed tens of thousands in Somalia was precipitated by drought.  One would think places like Somalia (where the population is large and resources are limited) would be granted primary access to BT crops.  That is not the case.  In fact, access to the new technology is very limited to the developing world.  Almost all genetically modified organisms were developed by large agricultural firms and profit was the main motive (Wright 308).  Farmers have been forbidden by contract from propagating seeds for themselves and must buy the seeds annually. 

 Genetic Engineering – Medicine

            The treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is an area where genetic engineering can make a difference.  Ground breaking work in this area has been conducted by Nicholaos Robakis, a neurobiologist in Mount Sinai School of Medicine at NYU.  In an entry to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2006), Robakis gives a detailed account of how the group of scientists went about cloning DNA to try to understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s.  The scientists were able to obtain the the cDNA clones encoding amyloid-B (responsible for the disease) and also produced data showing the encoding gene was on chromosome 21.  Another Study (Sato, et.al. 1999) shows in detail how genetic testing and engineering was used to isolate/identify things that contribute to brain disease.   Both studies have vast implications for the diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s. 

            In clinical trials, researchers have found evidence indicating that transplanting genetically modified skin cells into the brain might slow the progression of the diseases (Asia Pacific Biotech News, 2004). The small study has shown that technique is safe to use and may reduce the mental decline that is typical of the degenerative disease.  A year later, patients that were treated showed the rate of mental decline was cut in half.  By comparison the drug therapies available, can offer a 5% decrease in the rate of decline. The clinical studies show that there are great benefits to genetic engineering in medicine, particularly in diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s. 

 The bad

            The bad here is linked to ethics particularly to the area of informed consent.  The American Geriatric Society cautions that geriatricians and counselors need to be cognizant of the challenges related to informed consent for genetic testing in older adults (2001).  Older adults attended school prior to the discovery of DNA and therefore may have a limited understanding of genetics concepts.  Geriatric health care professionals and genetic counselors need to consider this when explaining genetic testing to patients, and may need to adjust medical explanations, etc. as needed.  Also, patients who are affected with dementia may lack the capacity to give informed consent for genetic testing.  Although not explicitly stated by AGS, the concern here is that older adults may become participants in testing without any real consent.

            As exemplified by genetic testing in Alzheimer’s there is always a down side.  In 1988 scientists pinpointed a gene responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (Behar 2004).  Children with muscular dystrophy lack the gene required to regulate dystrophin, a protein for muscle growth and stability.  Without the gene, the muscles wither and die.  The scientist’s plan was to introduce the dystrophin gene by hitching it to DNA of a virus that could transport genes into the cell.  In a series of experiments the scientists were able to inject the genes into mice and rats and saw how the damaged muscle cells repaired its self.   The insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) was a proven, powerful hormone that promoted growth muscles.  The mice that had been treated with the hormone and made to exercise could lift 30% more weight and their muscle mass swelled by a third – double of the mice in the control group.

            Gene doping (the non-therapeutic use of genes) is a cited concern.  To be able to mimic the results is not that expensive, especially if it is going to a small population of athletes.  Gene doping is different from other performance enhancing techniques because human growth hormone takes place naturally in the body and speeds up cell division in many types of tissues.  Genetic modifications become a part of the DNA in targeted muscles.  The only way to prove that someone has experimented with gene doping is to biopsy a suspicious muscle – making it a night mare for sports officials trying to regulate doping.

Moral Implications

Many of the moral implications have been addressed throughout this review.   Here are some that are specifically cited in the prospect of human cloning (Miah, 27):

  1. The treating of an individual as a means to an end, rather than an end in him/herself, which goes against the Kantian maxim upon which human rights are based.
  2. Every human has a right to a unique genotype (against the prospect of cloning).
  3. Present genetic engineering techniques are so experimental that they are likely to inflict a degree of harm on the unborn life that is morally unacceptable.
  4. By engineering persons, we enact a form of eugenicide that will lead to the discrimination of or the devaluing of particular kinds of persons.
  5. The institutionalization of genetic technologies may lead to governments or business breeding qualities for their purpose
  6. Making public of genetic information may lead certain individuals to be disadvantaged and discriminated against; such might be the case with insurance or employment opportunities.

 Regulating Bodies

Here is a list of the agencies that regulate genetic engineering:

Cartagena Protocol – On the international level, the UN convention on Biodiversity – it deals with trade in genetically engineered organisms (Wright & Boorse  309).  The Cartagena protocol states that the “lack of scientific certainty due to insufficient relevant scientific information… shall not prevent a country from taking a decision on the import of genetically modified organisms.  The protocol puts the right to deny entry of any of the organisms in the hands of the importing countries, but its decisions must be based on sound science.

EPA & USDA (in the United States) – all have regulatory oversight of different elements of the application of biotechnology to food crops. 

The National Academy of Sciences National Research Council – The council adequately tests for environmental and health effects of transgenic crops.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights – within the document, the agency urges for the application of such technology to respect human dignity and to ensure the protection of individuals from such effects as genetic discrimination (Miah, 2000).

Closing thoughts

   Genetic engineering can help improve the quality of life.   Research shows that the technology can be used to address food deficiency, for cleaner energy and in treating illeness.  As with anything else, the pros and cons of the technology must be carefully weighed.  If the necessary agencies worked tenaciously to protect and serve the public (domestically and globally), our society would be able to greatly benefit from this emerging science. 

     Works Cited

American Geriatric Society – Ethics Committee.  “Genetic Testing for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.”  JAGS  49. (2001): 225-226.

Asia Pacific Biotech Research Findings ANB 8.12 (2004).

Behar, Michael.  “Will Genetics Destroy Sports?” Discover 25.7 (2004): 40-45.

Evans, L.T.  Feeding the Ten Billion:  Plants and population growth.  Cambridge, U.K:  Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Gettleman, Jeffery.  “UN Says Somalia Famine has ended, but Warns Crises is not Over.” New York Times February 4, 2012.

Miah, Andy.  “The Engineered Athlete: Human Rights in the Genetic Revolution.”  Culture, Sport, Society 3.3 (2000): 25-40.

Robakis, Nicholaos, K.  “The Discovery and Mapping to Chromosome 21 of the Alzheimer’s Amylid Gene: History Revised.”  Journal of Azlheimer’s Disease 10 (2003): 453-455.

Sato, Naoya, et. al.  A Novel Presenilin-2 Splice Variant in Human Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Tissue.” Journal of Neurochemistry 72.6 (1999): 2498-2505.

Wright, Richard, T. and Boorse, Dorothy. F.  Environmental Science Toward a Sustainable Future.  11th ed.  San Francisco, CA:  Pearson Education, 2011.

Xie, Guasheng and Peng, Liangcai.  “Genetic Engineering of Energy Crops: A Strategy for Biofuel Production in China.”  Journal of Intergrative Plant Biology  53.2 (2011): 143-150.

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A few weeks ago, my presentation focused on overpopulation and its vast impact.  The research conducted, clearly indicated that in order to limit great harm to the environment, decrease hunger, and improve standards of living, population must be controlled.

Attached is the chart for the decision making criteria for population control.

 

Decision:  Population should be controlled                          
Does the Criterion respect the category?           Criteria              
                                   
Place a 1 by “Yes” or “No.”   Autonomy   Beneficience   Non-malficience   Justice/Equity      
Time Category Viewpoint   YES NO   YES NO   YES NO   YES NO      
Current Environment Global     1     1     1     1      
Current Quality of Life Global     1     1     1     1      
Current Economy Global           1     1     1      
Current Hunger Global     1     1     1     1      
Current Religion Global   1       1                  
Current Culture Global   1       1     1   1        
Current World Politics Global     1     1     1     1      
Future Environment Global   1     1     1     1     > 1 geneation
Future Quality of Life Global   1     1     1     1     only for 40 years
Future Economy Global   1     1     1     1        
Future Hunger Global   1     1     1     1        
Future Religion Global     1     1     1   1        
Future Culture Global   1       1   1     1        
Future World Politics Global   1     1     1     1        
                                   
                                   
    Subtotal   8 4   5 8   6 6   8 4      
                          Total categories       
    Total               22     44.90 % NO      
                    27     55.10 % YES      
                                   
                                   

 

     The relationship between the arts/art objects and the environment is a delicate one.  Through time, art objects inevitably undergo chemical and consequent physical changes from exposure to agents of deterioration — light, temperature, humidity, and oxygen (Hornbeck 52).  In modern art, the materials are much more problematic for conservators because of the lack of understanding about how the new materials will react overtime.  When the agents of deterioration are multiplied, for example, an object being exposed to both elevated temperature and light, the combined objects trigger a chemical reaction that results in faster deterioration.

     When it comes to archaeological artifacts, the influence of nature/environment is of even greater importance (Remazeilles, C., Conforto, E.   110). Nature plays a dominant role on the type of the corrosion products formed by the corrosion process.  Determining what the products are is very important to diagnosing the state of the degradation and choosing the appropriate steps for preservation.

      The unearthing of a very rare Roman inkwell in a small maritime village in France, underscores the impact that the natural environment can have on a precious piece of antiquity (Remazeilles, C. & Conforto, E.  111). The excavation site was in the middle of the fields where cereals were cultivated.  An analysis of the object showed the corrosion was a result of the interaction between the metallic allow and residues of agricultural fertilizers and soil amendments, extensively used for decades in the field. 

     It is intersting that an attempt to uncover how the environment triggerd changes in an artifact uncovered how man’s behavior impacted nature.  It was found that the treatment of the soil (through the use of fertilizers) was the key factor for corroding the inkwell.   This is a great reminder that the actions of man on the environment have long term consequences.   If fertilizers have corrosive effects on metal, what type of impact does it have on drinking water?  It is most definitely food for thought! 

Works Cited

Hornbeck, S. E. (2009).  A Conservation Conundrum: Ephemeral Art at the National Museum of African Art.  African Arts 42(3), 52-61.

Remazeilles, C., Conforto, E.  (2008).  A Buried Roman Bronze Inkwell: Chemical interactions with agricultural fertilizers.  Studies in Conservation 53, 110-117.

 

 

      As the lean, dark bodies move on the stage to the beat of drums, members of the audience are transported to an African village where a wedding ceremony is taking place.  For Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe, dance is not just an art.  It is a way of communicating the unique experiences of African-Americans.   In 2008, a U.S. Congressional resolution designated the Company as “a vital cultural ambassador to the world http://www.alvinailey.org/about/company/alvin-ailey-american-dance-theater.  The creative inspirations for the dances came from the blues, spirituals and gospels. 

 

     Alvin Ailey’s work is a good illustration of how dance and science are connected.  To understand the social customs and norms of a particular culture, scientists often turn to music and dance.  The field known as dance ethnology was developed by North American researchers interested in understanding the cultural diversity of dancing (The Encyclopedia of Dance: Methodologies in the Study of Dance).  This approach is used by scholarly institutions, including university departments, professional associations and journals.  A challenge for dance ethnologists is to be able to conceptualize dance in a manner that can be applied across cultures and to develop theory and method that can generate insights into a widely differing dance cultures. 

 

     Dance ethnology has its roots in anthropology, social sciences, humanities and the arts.  Gertrude Kurath is said to be the pioneer of dance ethnology.  In 1960 she wrote “Panorma”, the paper responsible for the establishment of the study of dance as a formal part of anthropology (Keppler 31).  Evidence shows that Karuth’s idea was not at first well received.  An international conference on the subject shows that only ten people were on the list of invitees.  The lack of response could be attributed to Anthropologists’ established approach to studying a community.  For the most part, things such as dance or other aspects of human behavior considered arts were not given serious attention (or any attention).  They were often categorized as “play” and were not considered important parts of culture.  Although it was a slow shift, anthropologists began to realize that a study and understanding of dance can be an obvious part of culture and can help in the understanding of the deep structure of a society.  The result: new insights into understanding other parts of culture.

 

     The study of dance as a means of understanding culture has become a great tool for research.  Not only is it used to look at differences in ethnicity, but also to shed light on the behavior of specific groups.  In her work on dance and sexuality, Judith Hanna (2010) indicates that movement discourse analysis is similar to analyzing language (Hanna 214).  Dance is described as a system units of movements that combine to make words (vocabulary), that combine to make utterances or phrases, which finally come together to make a discourse (dance) shaped by social context.  A researcher can look at artistic conventions that express sexuality in dance.  Themes of gender, sexual orientation, asexuality, and ambiguity can be examined in the context of dance. 

 

     Another way in which scientists are using dance as science is to bring awareness to the relationship between human behavior and the environment (Stewart 2010).  Environmental dance is an umbrella term for various dances and somatic practices concerned with the human body’s relationship to land scape and environment, including the other-than human world of animals and plants (Stewart 32).  Environmental dance seeks to help develop an approach in which the values of nature or being part of nature support and demand that nature be protected.

 

     Dance has also been used as a tool in education (Lorezo-Laza, S.K., Ideishi, R.I., Ideishi, S.K.  2007). It has been found that physical movement coupled with pretend imagery can help attention, speed, retention, and enjoyment of learning.  Movement and music experiences included in a preschool curriculum can also reinforce math and logic concepts through rhythm and patterns of beat and tempo. 

 

    Having reviewed the employment of dance for scientific purposes, there is one application that must be underscored: dancing as a form of enjoyment. Alone, with a partner or as part of a group, dancing simply feels good and is cathartic. 

 
Works Cited:

 

 

 

Hanna, J. L. (2010).  Dance and Sexuality: Many moves.  Journal of Sex Research, 47(2-3), 212-241.

 

 

 

Kaeppler, A. L. (1978). Dance in Anthropological Perspective.  Annual Rev. Anth., 7, 31-49.

 

Lorezo-Laza, S.K., Ideishi, R.I., Ideishi, S.K. (2007).  Facilitating preschool learning and movement through dance.  Early Childhood Education Journal 35(1), 25- 31. 

 

Stewart, N.  (2010). Dancing the Face of Place:  Environmental dance and eco-phenomenology.    Performance Research, 15(4), 32-39.

 

The Encyclopedia of Dance: Methodologies in the Study of Dance http://newman.richmond.edu:

 

 

             

      At the heart of eco-feminism is the idea that there is a connection between the western and patriarchal domination of nature and women (MacSwain 24).  The argument along those lines maintains that the same societal constructs that oppress women also serve to undervalue environmental resource.  To elaborate on the connection, eco-feminists point to militarization, feminism, ecology and healing.   One of the lines of reasoning is as follows:  the same process of militarization and corporate dictates that attack nature should be compared to the aggression against the female body.  Both war and traditional sexual relationship evolved through the same stages:  aggression, conquest, possession, and control.  The argument concludes that based on their natures and experiences woman have a “particularly” deep understanding of both nature and the aggression directed at it.

     No one can dispute the fact that for thousands of years, the earth has suffered greatly.  The development of agriculture, the industrial revolution, the medical revolution and the green revolution all created damaging, lasting environmental problems (Wright, R.T., Boorse, D.F. 194).  The changes that were procured by each of the revolutions were for the betterment of mankind.  Better methods of agriculture gave us more reliable food supply.  The discovery of medicine and improvements in sanitary conditions gave us healthier, longer lives.  The search for solutions to combat starvation and premature death caused by illness could hardly be considered a gross attack on nature. 

     Nor can we dispute the fact that many of the practices that deplete our natural resources and wipe out entire eco-systems are a result of insatiable consumerism in today’s “modern” culture.  This taking of resources can be categorized as a ruthless attack; a “raping” of nature.  In this, the eco-feminist’s assessment seems to be adequate. However, with modern times came modern science, which led to a deeper of understanding of the ramifications. 

     With new technological breakthroughs (such as the internet, computers, nanotechnology, robotics, and solar technologies) many are looking to see how these can be put to use to affect a real “green” revolution – an environmental revolution (Wright, R.T., Boorse, D.F.  197). More efficient technologies, better urban and regional planning, policy and industrial changes are driving this revolution.  The scientific community is banning together to look at strategies for better informing the public and more importantly, getting the public to effect change based on the knowledge (Ehrlich 6).  We now see a trend where big corporations are focusing on sustainability and stewardship (MWV headquartered in Richmond, VA is an excellent of a global company gone “green”).  

     The discussion of the environmental revolution and the strides made to help protect the environment are done to underscore an important point: there is a new sensitivity towards nature and a greater desire to stop its abuses.  Men and women both share in the journey towards a better future.  To say that women have a better understanding of nature because of biological, reproductive and maternal roles and; therefore, are more concerned about the environment is both misleading and divisive. 

     Studies show that empathy, the capacity to experience the same emotions that someone else is experiencing is a result of awareness to gender stereotypes and expectations (Hetherington & Parke 645).   Also, prosocial reasoning has a modest biological component.  Influences such as parental behavior (through teaching and modeling), cultural customs and practices, and the media all have a greater impact on thinking and making judgments about prosocial issues.  This would seem to indicate that the traits we associate with being female (such as empathy, prosocial behavior, and nurturing) are not inborn, but have their roots in socialization.  The implication here is that women are not born empathic or maternal.  The characteristics are learned from socialization and gender expectations.  Therefore, males too can be nurturing and empathic. 

      In fairness to eco-feminism, female essence or essentialism is only part of what the movement is about.  Eco-feminism has varying strands of thoughts, which do not include the essentialism as part of its narrative (MacSwain 25).  Some eco-feminists use the conceptual framework (and not essentialism) to explore issues.  A good example is Chircop’s (2008) work on environmental health inequities.  In her work, Chircop explores the link between gender and urban environmental health.  Chircop’s insight contributes to a better understanding of the things that drive gendered environmental health inequities.  It also details healthy public policy that is supports urban environmental health, especially for low income mothers. 

     With all of its good intentions, eco-feminism seems to lack cohesiveness.  Its essentialist component, which seems to be widely accepted by most eco-feminists, often, leads to marginalization (MacSwain 2000).  After all the recent accomplishments, being relegated to a “woman’s group” is hardly what any feminist wants.  Furthermore, the environmentalist movement is comprised by individuals who deeply care about their environment; men and women/boys and girls.  All working together to effect change.  If choosing a label, then let it be that of environmentalist.

 

 

Works Cited

 Chicrop, A.  (2008).  An ecofeminist conceptual framework to explore gendered environmental health inequities in urban setting and to inform health public policy.  Nursing Inquiry, 15(2), 135-147.

 

Ehrlich, P.R.  (2011). Seeking environmental solutions in the social sciences.  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 67 (5), 1-8.

Hetherington, E.M., Parke, R. D.  (1999). Child Psychology: a contemporary view point, 5th Ed.  Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill College.

MacSwain, K. (2009).  Dirty words: essentialism and eco-feminism.  Undercurrent  Journal,  6 (1),  23-27.

                Moore, N.  (2008). Eco/Feminism, non-violence and the future of feminism.  International

 

 

Hamlet’s famous soliloquy ponders one of life’s most profound questions:

  To be or not to be…whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows  of  outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of sorrows and by opposing end them…

Let’s pretend “the slings and arrows” come in the form of terminal cancer.  Let’s also pretend that instead of nobly suffering, I decided to “take arms against a sea of sorrows”, should euthanasia (a.k.a. physician assisted suicide) be viable option?

The right to self government and moral independence is seen as a major foundation of human rights here in the U. S. (Karlsson, M, Millberg, A., & Strang, P.  34). However, when it comes to choosing to expedite death rather than suffer through a catastrophic illness, the individual does not have the right to “self govern”.  For countries where doctor assisted suicide is legal, patient autonomy is the very thing used in its legal regulation.

As with any significant decision, it is important to understand the objective basis for making the decision; a point well made by Dr. Maurakis’s presentation.  A study, which involved 66 cancer patients sought to understand how/why they would make the decision for or against euthanasia (Karlsson, et all. 2012).  The study sought to find if autonomy, which is usually cited as a key factor in the decision for euthanasia, would also be a factor in the decision-making of the patients.

When it came to the general attitude about euthanasia, 29% were pro, 20% opposed, and 51% were undecided.  Many of the patients expressed wishes to limit future medical care and not prolong life in all situations.  Those patients that cited euthanasia as a means to patient autonomy explained that it was empowering:  it enables one to make decisions to control ones death as well as life.  This was perceived to be something valuable as well as a human right.

On the other hand, there were some patients that viewed euthanasia as an empowering of doctors and the health care system.  Some felt empowered doctors would be analogous to having a parent – someone in charged of making decisions for their well-being.  To counter that point, some patients argued that euthanasia would create a society where doctors get to choose who lives and who dies.  This would mean that individuals would not have the power to protect themselves.

The international community has several documents that deal with the right to life and the individual (Biswas, T.K & Sengupta, A.  25). The documents also bring forth valid ground to consider euthanasia in various contexts.  Here are three examples of such documents:

1)      Universal Declaration for Human Rights is not itself a document or treaty, but it is considered “customary international law”.

2)     The European Convention on Human Rights lists the right to life as well as the exceptions to it.

3)    The International Covenant on civil and Political Rights stipulates a)  everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law, b) no one shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction and, c) deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this.

On the matter of euthanasia, there is no shortage of arguments (for and against).    My personal argument has always been that it should be left up to the individual.   If of sound mind/rational, why should a person not have the right to make a decision?  The bottom line is that this is a serious ethical/social problem, which should be solved (Fenigsen 239).   While more and more rhetoric is put forth, countless of people are living in unbearable pain and countless others are watching their loved ones suffer.  Let’s have less rhetoric and more action!

 

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Bivas, T. K., Sengupta, A.  (2010).  Euthanasia and its legality and legitimacy from Indian and international human rights.  Asia Pacific Journal on Human Rights the law, 11, 18-30.

Fenigsen, R. (2011).  Other people’s lives: Reflections on medicine, ethics and euthanasia: Part two: Medicine versus euthanasia.  Issues in Law and Medicine, 26(3), 23-279

Karlsson, M.,  Millberg, A.,  Strang, P.  (2012).   Dying cancer patients own opinions on euthanasia:  An expression of autonomy?  Palliative Medicine, 26,  34-32.

           

      Dr. Maurakis’s presentation sounded the alarm on a few very sobering statistics: Nearly 1 in 4 lives in extreme poverty; 20 million die of malnutrition; almost 13% cannot get enough food to grow and function properly.  In conducting research for the class, I came across one more heart-wrenching statistic.  In July 2011, the U. N. declared the on-going famine in Somalia was the worst in 20 years with a reported 10,000 dying of hunger per day.  

     At the center of all the statistics is one key fact that many seem to be ignorant of (or simply choose to ignore) – the human species is one thread in the fabric of life.  A point very well highlighted by Dr. Maurakis in his presentation.  Many of the challenges we face today is because humans operate with the mindset that we are supreme and unique beings in the fabric of life. 

     If we were to function under the assumption that we (mankind) are an integral part of the planet and that our behavior has an impact on the planet’s good health, then we might just make some progress (Boorse & Wright 4).  The relationship between mankind/earth is symbiotic.  Change in one triggers a change in the other.  Also, the health of one mirrors the health of the other.  Think of our planet as a very important patient.  Several organizations are involved in diagnosing the patient’s vital signs and what needs to be done to maintain the patient’s health.  Here are four global trends that are particularly unhealthy: (1) increasing population growth, (2) a decline of vital ecosystems, (3) the negative impact of global climate change, and (4) loss of biodiversity. 

     Simply telling people about the scientific facts does not create awareness or action (Ehrlic 4).  One of the ways being discussed to bring about change involves creating a network of scientists, which would include biologists, natural scientists, ecologists and social psychologists; all working together.  Social scientists for example can help figure out how to get people not just to understand, but how to take some action in response to their better understanding.  There is much work to be done in order to bring about change.  With each of us  making a real commitment, it can be done. 

Works Cited:

Boorse, D. F., Wright, R. T. (2011).  Environmental Science: toward a sustainable future.  San Francisco, CA:  Pearsons Education, Inc.

 Ehrlich, P.R. (2011). Seeking Environmental Solutions in Social Sciences.  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , 67(5) 1-8.