Human Exceptionalism

Bemoaning Medicine’s New Role as a Lifestyle Enabler

Time to get in trouble:

I don’t think it is particularly healthy that medicine’s role in society is increasingly about enabling the well off to make personal lifestyle decisions, particularly when the healing side of the profession is under increasing resource strain.  This concern came to mind when I read about a new surgical and storage technique being developed to permit women to delay childbearing without worry of a potentially childless consequence.  From the story:

As an increasing number of women delay motherhood at the risk of losing their fertility, one doctor believes he has found the answer: pausing biological time by freezing ovarian tissue…In Britain, after pregnancy, infertility is the most common reason for women aged 20-45 to see their GP – with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) defining infertility as failing to get pregnant after two years of regular unprotected sex. ‘As doctors we have to find ways to help these women,’ Silber says. ‘As human beings we have to decide how to tackle a society that has forced these women to delay motherhood to the point where many are missing out or have to turn to IVF with or without donor eggs to achieve their dream.’

Sorry, most people aren’t forced to delay parenthood, they do it because they have other priorities.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not for barring this kind of technology.  But I find it troubling that in a society claiming to thrive on “choice,” we work so hard to ensure that the choices we make have no consequences. With this expediency agenda now draining increasing levels of medical resources and talent from other more crucial areas of health care–after all, lifestyle enabling or enhancing is where the real money is to be found in these days–I think that the profession is both undermined and general public hurt.

I know, I know: I’m spitting into the wind.

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