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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Judging Others' Lives

The last month was filled with disappointment on one hand and excitement on the other. However, all my concerns revolved around the issue of life. How much do we value another person’s life? And on what grounds?

Of course, the issue of whether Eluana Englaro should live on sparked a lot of debate on an international level. Eluana, who had been in a coma for more than 16 years, was deemed by her father as being kept alive ‘against her wishes’. According to news reports, doctors interviewed agreed with the father's testimony. Ultimately, the final decision was taken. Eluana should die through the cessation of feeding. She eventually died on 9th February.

Inasmuch as modern medicine is greeted as a ‘miracle’, it raises ethical issues that cannot be simply resolved in terms of good or bad. Having said that, I believe that the interests that were being safeguarded through Eluana’s murder are those of others. The decision of whether this woman should die wasn’t a decision relating to her wishes but more to the wishes of her parents and those who were pro-death (or those supporting the so-called ‘ right-to-die’).

Indeed, if you think about it, no one considered that Eluana may be quite happy where she was. Many tried to picture themselves in ‘her situation’ but, alas, none of them were! It’s this rashness to assume that a disabled person or someone who cannot voice his/herself that really worries me. A quick judgement that reduces the value of who we are to how productive we are, to how much we contribute to society or how much we consume. And even if we get that right, there is also the risk that the way we look to others may seriously reduce our life expectancy.

On this point, the view persists that it must be awful to be disabled. It must be terrible to be in a coma for more than 16 years. But the point is, you’re not there and you cannot decide for me or that person. Inasmuch as our judgment about the quality of another person's life may be close to the truth, such a judgment can only be made from our own point of view that may, or may not have, a bias and a model of the world that fails to recognise different ways people can live or prosper.

Needless to say, having no voice has a further disadvantage. It’s difficult as it is to make your point when you can speak. But it’s often the case that people who are not recognised as ‘persons’ with rights are easily turned into objects that are open to exploitation by politicians and scientists alike. I’m talking about Obama’s decisions to allow US funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) here. The unborn are another ‘voiceless’ majority. But because they have no voice, they can be denied their protection under the law where it is legally sanctioned.

While ESCR could hold a 'promise' for the discovery of new cures and treatments for the world, at what cost? Obviously, the cost is the destruction of human life. I correct that. It's the use of another life to sustain another - or worse to manipulate an embryo into becoming another human organ. And if you think about it, it’s not that far from Mary Shelley’s idea of creating a living thing out of dead people’s body parts. In fact, the only thing Shelley got wrong was that instead of using cadavers to build humans, modern Dr Frankenstein is using living and developing human beings as spare parts. That is, unless you believe, that the nine months of pregnancy your mum withstood have nothing to do with the fact you’re here today.

Frankly, I believe that more money should be invested in adult stem cell research or even into the benefit of using the stem cells present in the umbilical chords of babies. On this matter, financial reward is being given for research that takes an easy way out. Some people may be offended if you compare such experimentation with those Nazi experiments on Jews to find out what temperature extremes our human body can survive, so I won't.

Now, a different subject altogether. Remember I had launched my new blog Cosmos Online a few months back. It's been offline for some time. Fortunately, I had the chance to use my free time to update Cosmos Online by identifying labels for each chapter, revamping the site design and making it easier for you to follow Namuh’s story. Moreover, I have changed my blogger icon on both this blog and on Cosmos Online, so when you bookmark them I hope they stand out from the others.

Incidentally, the original book Cosmos was written in part of my life where these ethical issues worried me. In this sense, re-reading what I wrote back in 1999 rekindled my pro-life passion and, simultaneously, my love of writing. While free time is precious now, I am toying with the idea of writing a social novel now – or something along those lines. I also managed to figure out how to turn a power point presentation into a you tube video. In fact, here is my first you tube video – which is a promotion for the updated Cosmos Online blog:

Yes, it’s not exactly a work of art but as my first attempt, I hope it’s bearable to watch at least. Well enough said…