Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Are Ethical Issues Obstructing Scientific Medical Advancements For People With Disabilities?

3 Jun 2011Breakthroughs in science have greatly contributed to the medical advancements in the disabled world. But, at what cost?

Many people see scientific developments as a blessing, something that is going to change the world, for the better. There are however, some religious groups who see science as something that is ‘evil’.

Let’s take the stem cell debate for example. Religion see’s harvesting stem cells from an aborted foetus as immoral. Many groups have protested against this practice, which has caused further study in this area to be halted.

I personally feel that if someone chooses to have an abortion, for whatever reason, that is their choice, and they shouldn’t be judged for their decision. If this is the case, and someone does make their own decision to have an abortion, why can’t those stem cells be used to potentially improve the life of someone else, who has already possibly had many years on this earth? If research into stem cell treatment wasn’t restricted, who knows how far more advanced we could be when it comes to curing people with illness, injuries and disabilities?

If ‘god’ created this world, and everything on it, then why did he/she give humans the ability to become so technologically advanced? If ‘god’ didn’t want humans to gain such complex knowledge, then he/she wouldn’t have made up capable of such things.

For those of you who are going to be offended by this subject, please think hypothetically for a moment, what if your child had a horrific car accident and you were told that they would never walk again? Would you deny them of such treatments that may give them the opportunity to walk again, if such decisions were to put you in a morally compromising situation? Or, if you’re a father, and your teenage daughter was sexually assaulted and as a result, fell pregnant, would you force your child to continue on with the pregnancy, until they gave birth to their illegitimate baby?

I know what my answer would be. But I also know that these examples have happened around the world and people have denied a family member of medical treatment, because of religion, or pressured someone into giving birth to a baby that was conceived during an assault, for fear of what could eventuate if they disobeyed ‘god’.

The fact is, as sad or ‘immoral’ as it may be, thousands of abortions happen every day, all over the world, I know if I was in the unfortunate situation of choosing abortion, I would want to see some good come out of my choice. Like helping scientific researchers discover medical advancements.

So, now I will finally get to my reason for this rant on religion V science, one of my blog followers sent me a story about a medical breakthrough for people with Spinal Cord Injuries, which I will now discuss.

Rob Summers, 25, was sadly paralysed from the chest down, due to a tragic hit and run accident in 2006. Rob, along with five other Spinal Cord Injury individuals, were selected, and given the opportunity to participate in a world first, experimental procedure that would change his life.

Electrodes were implanted into Rob’s lower spine, connecting to thick nerve bundles that predominantly control the hips, knees, ankles and toes. Rob has worked together with the team of 11 researches at the Spinal Cord Research Centre at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, to build up his leg muscles, for the past 26 months, to achieve the best outcome for the procedure.

In a recent interview, Rob says of the surgery: "This procedure has completely changed my life. For someone who for four years was unable to even move a toe, to have the freedom and ability to stand on my own is the most amazing feeling. To be able to pick up my foot and step down again was unbelievable, but beyond all of that, my sense of wellbeing has changed. My physique and muscle tone have improved greatly, so much that most people don't even believe I am paralysed."

Rob is the first person out of the five who were selected, to receive the surgery. Since the procedure, he can reach a standing position and support his own weight for up to four minutes. He is also able to move parts of his lower body on command, and make stepping motions on a treadmill, he does require the assistance of a therapist and a harness support, but before the operation, Rob couldn’t move or feel a thing below his chest, so it’s just amazing to see what has been accomplished in such early days. There is still a long way to go, and only time will tell.

What the researches are eventually hoping for, is that some individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries, will be able stand and carry out stepping motions, with the help of a walking frame. They are also eager to see if restoration of bladder and bowel control can be achieved, as well as sexual response.

To read the full story on Rob, click here: http://www.news.com.au/technology/sci-tech/implant-breakthrough-helps-paraplegic-man/story-fn5fsgyc-1226059523331 - if you read some of the comments attached to the end of the article, there will be some discussions about whether or not moral issues are impeding the momentum of further scientific breakthroughs. And these comments are what caused my above rant.

I’d be interested to hear what you think. How many of you are for and against scientific medical research? After all, without science, would we really have any of the technology we have today?

Rob on the treadmill

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Previous Comments

cassandra from campbelltown posted on 3 Jun 2011
It's fantastic that you are comforTA-BLE to bring this topic up. Its one in our family that gets spoken about all the time, my father in law is a paraplegic after a motor bike accident over 30 years ago. His spine was never broken and spinal cord never severed his spine socketed one into the other therefore causeing irreparable damange and brusimg to his spinal Cord, 20 years ago he would have been the perfect candidate for stem cell and hopes one day other young people in the same position will be given the chance he never had. Also my husband is a medical scientist and has done a lot of genetics studying so this topic is very very openly discussed in our house hold andi know how taboo it can be sometimes and I'm very lucky that majority of the people I associate myself with respect my opinion even if they don't agree with it

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