Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ethical Issues Analysis

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The medical field has developed in an extraordinary way over the past few decades. It has been helped by the enormous progress in technology and computer science that have vastly extended the possibilities of experimentation on human beings. These experiments have led to many saved lives and have lengthened our average life spans. But are some medical researchers pushing the envelope too far? In the article Sham Surgery, a doctor uses a very controversial “placebo” technique in trying to help a patient with Parkinson’s disease. In another article, The World Seen From Rome, the Pontifical Academy for Life states its commitments in biomedical work. The articles serve as examples of how some researchers push the limits of accepted ethical medical research, while others create guidelines in hopes of preventing researchers from crossing over ethical research boundaries. This analysis will discuss the ethical issues raised in the articles, the effect these issues have on the research process, and our opinions regarding the issues.

Ethical Issues Discussed in the Articles

The push for science and technology to work with each other rather than against one another is continuing. The advent of certain unethical practices is determined to rear its ugly head in this high-tech field. One such practice is called “sham surgery”. This type of surgery is a form of a “placebo” effect for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease (Health Week, 00). It consists of the doctor explaining a procedure of implanting fetal brain cells into patients with severe Parkinson’s disease to see if there are any changes or effects. The patients involved in this study are all willing participants of the research. This however brings up some other issues of ethical practices. The participants pass up the risks involved in hopes the practice works. Dr. Ruth Maklin from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY stated that, “performing a surgical procedure that has no expected benefit violates ethical and regulatory principles” (Health Week, 00).

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Another approach we are examining is a campaign for more humanized medicine. The article The World Seen From Rome brings to light the unethical use of implanting embryonic cells to benefit the life of another human being. Letting the reader know that this form of “medicine” may even be a result of disposing of or destroying the embryo (Zenit, 00). The Pontifical Academy for Life clearly states that “when technology is not used within a precise ethical framework, or for the good of all men, or if benefits are achieved for some to the detriment of others, that technology is morally objectionable (Zenit, 00).

Effects of Issues on the Research Process

There are two main schools of thought on the ethical implications of the “sham surgery” research process. One is that the surgery should abide by the gold standard of research design, that risks to the subjects in research be minimized (Health Week, 00). The other is that the risk to the subject in the research process justifies the outcome of potentially helping thousands of patients by knowing whether the procedure works (HealthWeek, 00).

The effect that the ethical research view of the Pontifical Academy for Life has on embryonic research is that they have launched a campaign deeming it unacceptable to sacrifice a human subject in any stage of development even to obtain something good (Zenit, 00). The group, representing the Catholic Church, believes medical research should be based on the principle of “moral goodness”.

Opinions Regarding the Issues

Medical research and treatment must be done ethically. Doctors owe patients a full explanation of any procedures they plan to perform on them. In Sham Surgery, the patient was told of a procedure that consisted of drilling four holes in the skull cap and inserting fetal cells on the brain mass. But during the surgery the surgeon only drilled the holes. He never inserted the fetal cells onto the brain mass. The doctor was relying on a placebo effect to make the patient feel better. The patient was participating in an experiment of which he was unaware. Team C believes it is unethical to perform surgery on humans without first fully explaining the procedure. Humans should not be used as “lab rats”.

Team C agrees with the Pontifical Academy for Life position that “science and technology must serve the human person, fully respecting his dignity and rights” (Zenit, 00). However, we have mixed opinions on the use of embryonic cells in medical research. Some of our team believes there may be a greater good from the use of embryonic cells, while other team members disagree. The Catholic Church’s positions concerning ethics are not accepted by everyone; however, some rules do need to be established. We do not need any modern day Dr. Frankenstein’s.


HealthWeek Online (00). Behind the Headlines Sham Surgery. PBS Online. Retrieved

April 8, 00 from the World Wide Web http//www.pbs.org/healthweek/trendsec_.htm

Zenit News Agency (00). ZENIT � The World Seen From Rome. Innovative Media,

Inc. Retrieved April 8, 00 from the World Wide Web http//www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=68

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