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Chapter Seven

Medical and Biological Technologies

Main Idea:  More than any other type of technology, medical and biological technologies demonstrate the dilemmas caused by technological advance. Although technological advances have produced great benefits in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, they have also raised complex problems regarding their costs and availability.
  • Medical technology may be a problem if is unsafe, unnecessary, unkind, or  unwise.
  • Dialysis and coronary procedures illustrate the issues of cost, benefits and accessibility.
  • Many of the most expensive technologies are halfway technologies in that they do little to address the cause of the disorder.
  • Diagnostic technologies are technologics that help doctors to diagnose and identify illnesses.  While they have greatly increased the accuracy of medical diagnosis, but have also raised problems:
    • May create their own needs (EKG’s, chest X-rays, etc)
    • Sometimes they are overused.
    • May lead to treatment of disorder rather than the human
    • Over reliance on diagnostic technology may cause one to miss many clues and exclude judgment, experience and intuition. Diagnostic technology can not address psychological factors.
Genetics and cloning
  • For some time, science has been able to genetically modify food. For example, it is possible to  genetically alter strawberry plants to make them more resistant to freezing and genetically modify corn to make it more drought resistant.  More recently, genetic engineering of animals and humans has emerged.  The most dramatic event in genetics was the cloning of a sheep in 1996.  A clone is a genetic duplicate.
  • While this has great promise in terms of developing new vaccines and curing hereditary diseases, it can also be a cause for concern.
  • Modifying genes could ultimately change the biological nature of the human race. Genetic technology raises a multitude of ethical issues:
    • Will some use the information to justify terminating a pregnancy?
    •  Will insurance companies could us as basis to deny coverage.
    • Some people will use genetics for eugenics: an  attempt to perfect humanity through reinforcing of ‘desirable’ traits and the suppression of ‘undesirable’ ones.”

Self Test