Ethic$ of Prevention

During todays discussion about gene therapy I couldn’t help but think of the economic aspects of this and other preventative/treatment options like it. Having been warned of the consequences of making rash assumptions, I tend to avoid doing so, however I will make an exception in assuming that these treatments are very expensive. I am concerned about the people who aren’t in the privileged position of being able to afford such treatments.  That being said I know there is already a lot of discussion about this currently, however with the reading of Connectome and the continued conversation in class I fear that this issue could become much worse.

In doing some quick scanning of some articles it seems that (correct me if I am wrong) gene therapy is still very experimental and used most frequently as treatment for an already diagnosed disease. It is also used as a preventive measure in some cases. That being said, there is clearly a lot of development which needs to occur in gene therapy.

In our bi-weekly discussions of the book, one of the topics which comes up often is the use of the connectome to diagnose and better understand diseases. Lately this conversation has drifted towards a discussion of its use in the prevention of diseases and disorders. If we can map the connectome and maybe use it to pinpoint helpful information about diseases, would we then be able to use this information to prevent the development of certain diseases in individuals?

If this becomes more than a “maybe” and more of a distinct possibility the world of neuroethics is going to have a field-day. One (I’m sure there will be MANY) of the concerns I see arising is the price and widespread availability of these preventive measures. If, like gene therapy, these options are very expensive, what will the future look like? Will these disorders and diseases become problems plaguing only those of lower socioeconomic status? Will this then perpetuate class-ism and other related issues? As I don’t know much about gene therapy and I am unable to predict the future of the connectome I am not sure if this is a valid concern but would the heritability of some of these diseases lessen in members of the upper-class as they would have access to the ability to “squash” these diseases on the genetic level?

I know this sounds entirely communistic but if members of our society are unable to attain preventive measures for these very serious diseases, should any of our citizens be able to? While this is already a concern with current treatment and prevention options I think that the power and possibilities of the future of gene therapies and the connectome greatly deepens this concern.

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One thought on “Ethic$ of Prevention

  1. I went to a talk on organ transplant presented by a medical anthropologist. She focused mostly on bioengineered organs. An audience member asked how much these organs cost, and she said they were very expensive (6-figure number) and because of this they are affordable and investigable mainly to wealthy folks. But she said that when the bioengineered organs are actually ready for public sale and not just testing she is confident that the price will stay very high and unaffordable to many patients. We are coming up with so many different and effective treatment options, but it is unfortunate and sad that their price tags prevent patients from attaining this treatment…

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