GUEST POST from Don: Medical Science Too Far?

Recently a kidney (the left one this time) decided to go into the masonry business as a means of telling me I was not drinking enough water.  I thought, with today’s technology, it could have sent the message another way.  However, it gave me time to look into medical science a bit.

Crossing a line:

Knowing when medical science has crossed a line may be a bit sticky.  Some instances are obvious.  We know that Mengele’s experiments on concentration camp Jews in the 1940s were wrong and the US Army’s experiments with recruits in the 1950s and 1960s were wrong.  How do you know when current research is wrong?  

Well!  For one thing we know (or should) that “the end does not justify the means.”  Good intent or even good results are not enough.  All medical experimentation must be done with concern for using best practices AND thoughtful ethical considerations to treat or cure disease.  Recently an experiment was done with a possible “new” cancer drug…with 100% success.  All 18 cancer patients who were facing surgery, radiation, and high risk of death were chosen for an experimental treatment of a drug that flags the cancer cells and turns off their “invisibility cloak.”  All of those patients went into remission and suffered almost no bad side effects.  Why did the experimenters do this study?  Was it random?  Did they consider this an ethical experiment?  They did it because the same experimental drug was used a few years ago on final stage cancer patients and it was discovered that it extended their lives.  Then the researchers asked an excellent question:  “What would happen if we gave this drug to cancer patients EARLIER?”

Second, we know that research is wrong when we are robbing people of freedom or dignity.  For example, we do not take organs from one patient while that person is still alive to extend the life of another (some exceptions exist…like removing one kidney, because a donor can live long and prosper with only one of his two kidneys, to save the life of another who needs one..always with permission granted by the one giving up a kidney.)  As a bad example, earlier this year a doctor performed necessary surgery on a young boy AND did an unnecessary vasectomy at the same time.  She should serve time and lose her license.

Third, we know that lying to the public about medical issues for political reasons is wrong.  Gender re-assignment, for example, is a mostly irreversible surgery which often does not solve the issue going on in the person’s head.  There are plenty of stories that have been brought to light in recent months in which people who have had the surgery claim it was the exact wrong thing to do for themselves (they had the surgeries as adults).  So, now there is a political push to allow children to have these surgeries.  I would venture that the results will be horrific for those who are gender confused and have not yet fully settled the issue for their lives.  We saw the same problem with the political posturing about COVID.  Politics should be kept out of medicine.  (Didn’t we learn that lesson from the Nazis?)

Some issues in this area are far less clear.  Sometimes they “feel wrong” but we can’t put our collective finger on exactly why.  I do know that the issue of medical ethics is a constantly evolving one.  Each new type of treatment should not be instantly accepted.  Medicines which worked well in the lab sometimes have bad consequences.  Early adoption of new medicines or treatments can be risky.  Yet, there are those who are in so much pain or distress that they would willingly take the chance and we have to ask ourselves if that is wise.  Accountability is important.

The Question:

So, the question of medical ethics arose when I read a story about how people with respiratory issues MAY be helped by flooding their intestines with oxygenated fluids.  Apparently, the intestines CAN absorb breathable gases as well as nutrients.  Using someone’s lower intestine as a surrogate lung … eeew!  

Apparently there are several long-term serious risks.  (Ya Think?)  I can tell you that there are MANY nerve endings which would be affected.  Plus, the digestive tract already HAS a clearly definable  purpose.  Do the risks even make trying the procedure worthy of experimentation?  I’m leaning away from this one even though I do not yet know why.

They are considering it as an experimental medical treatment, and they think it may work.  Is this going too far?  I’m thinking…WHO exactly are the target patients for such a procedure???  If someone’s lungs are that damaged, what long-term benefit could there be?  NOTE: We already have “mechanical lung” machines for those going through heart/lung surgeries.

Though something can be done does not mean we SHOULD do it.  However, it makes a great story line for a James Bond device, eh?  (“This device should only be used if there are no other options, James!  If you are running out of breathable air, place this tube up your *#*#*#*, and turn this knob…”).  Somehow that doesn’t sound quite like a Bond-type device, does it!?!  High tech?  Check.  Sexy?  Not so much.


Well!  I’m all for giving kidneys access to communication devices, but I am against politicizing medical procedures or doing a medical treatment merely because we CAN.  That smacks so much of thinking we are God.  Medical ethics are there to remind us that we are completely HUMAN which includes the ability to make wrong choices for “good” reasons, or even right choices for “evil” reasons.  Maybe in medicine we should not “run with scissors.”


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