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Medicine has long had the intuitive goal of preserving life.  It is what medicine is for.  We are historically not the type of people to give up on life.  In our society demographically, lifespans are at an all time high, up from age 40 in 1900 to 79 for women and 74 for men.  Eradication of many childhood diseases through immunization, better care during childbirth, which historically killed one in four women lifetime, and better sanitation have all played a role. 

But medicine and infant mortaility are what have influenced the numbers most.  Read the rest of this entry »

More and more lately, I hear from those who would reduce man to a machine. Certain outspoken scientists proclaim life as random, the result of chemical interactions and natural processes, and free will as an illusion. As I have stated before many neuroscientists are seeking to unlock the mystery of the brain and explain away consciousness. Others are convinced that we have evolved logic and can now leave primitive emotion behind. Occasionally this logic is overpowered by the primitive structures labeled by Arthur Koestler as the Ghost in the machine, a derogative term for mind-body dualism. Apparently, the Vulcan race is what these fellows aspire too. We could solve all the problems of the world if we could just be strictly logical, and lose emotion. It seems simple enough doesn’t it? Read the rest of this entry »

Our technology has caused us to radically redefine our concept of death. The advent of the mechanical ventilator greatly prolonged our ability to preserve vital functions in comatose patients. We now have a arsenal of drugs that maintain the function of very sick hearts. In fact, we now have machines that can actually pump blood and oxygenate it on their own, called extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation. It is often used in babies with severe lung disease.

Death has historically, and continues legally, to be defined as the presence of the heartbeat. This technology presents a unique challenge to this idea. Technically, it we use a heart/lung machine during an open heart operation, we are operating on a dead patient. Thus the surgeon, legally if not in actuality, is raising the dead with the operation. Is this playing God, or was the patient really dead A legal rethinking of the matter was inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »

from www.duke.edu Image from www.duke.edu

One may ask why I am arguing against embryonic stem cells at all. Mormonism, with its ensoulment concept is clearly flexible enough to stand with the majority of America on this. Some of the leading proponents in the Senate campaigning to loosen up restrictions are Mormon. They have been dubbed the Mormon Stem Cell Choir.

Here is the way I see it. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the largest fronts in the Religion vs. Science culture wars of our time is embryonic stem cell medical research. From a secular medicine point of view, we can and obviously should be using any and every means at our disposal for advancing technology to fight the diseases and scourges of our day. I am by no means unsympathetic to this point of view. I see very real and tragic stories everyday in children with damaged nervous systems that cannot recover, and for whom their is no curative or reparative treatment.

However, from a religious or even ethical point of view, things are just not that black and white. There is a point where just because we can does not mean we should. Nazi medicine shot into high gear with experimentation and eugenics on all kinds of “subhuman” or “damaged” subjects, certainly making scientific advancement easier but only in the most abhorrent and repugnant way.

While not always this obvious, the scientific community has a checkered history of recognizing when can does not mean should. They deeply resent any hint of suggestion of applying brakes when they see possibilities. The resentment goes doubles if the concerns are religious, with the two communities frequently at odds and at each others throats since the days of Galileo. Read the rest of this entry »

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