The idea of progress can be defined as an improvement, a development or a change, a technical, scientific or social advance which contributes to making the world a better place. In today’s world, progress is developing at a very fast rate. We see scientific progress medical advances, cures for illness, cloning, enhancement of drugs, genetically modified organisms. We also perceive technological progress: hybrid cars, wind turbines, solar panels, biofuel, nuclear power, advances in the internet, the social media, mobile phones, video games. In addition to this, we can see social progress: changes in the quality of life, employment, education, equality, women’s rights, human rights, family life, the idea of freedom, liberty, democracy… This progress is due to modern technology. The question remains: how does modern technology affect today’s society? Does it have a positive or a negative effect? To answer that question, I am going to present the idea of progress in medicine, its effects on our lives and the debates it creates regarding ethnicity and life choices.
First and foremost, we studied an article “Design your Baby” and an audio about changing the genetics of the baby. In this article, the author suggests that parents in the near future will be able to choose their babies’ physical traits, their level of intelligence, eliminate the diseases… I think that in this last case, this progress in medicine called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in which scientists choose embryos and ensure that the chosen one is healthy could help humans eradicate chronical diseases. However, the fact of choosing physical traits of the future baby should not be accepted: a baby should be loved and cherished by his parents no matter what he looks like, the color of his skin or the texture of his hair. Those characteristics shouldn’t be chosen by the parents because the appearance of an individual is part of his identity. If someone is choosing your identity for you where is your liberty? Moreover, given that this procedure is new and needs professionals, it costs a lot to be able to achieve it, and this will create even more problems because only the rich people are able to access this kind of technique and this increases the gap between what the rich people can afford compared to what the poor can do. People will become stereotyped just like we saw in “Odd man out”, a cartoon that shows a factory “Clones R Us” that creates humans. In this factory all the humans are the same, same face, eyes, mouth, underpants and we can suppose they also have the same temper. These similarities are possible thanks to eugenics, a science which studies methods of improving the genetic composition of the human race by selective breeding. And if there are men who aren’t conform to the regulation because they are too small, pale, don’t have the right hair color or have a disproportional member in their bodies for example they will be thrown into a dustbin. This cartoon is very interesting to illustrate the notion idea of progress because the artist denounces the idea of perfecting human genetics and the resulting dehumanization. This cartoon depicts perfectly the negative side of progress.
On the other hand, we talked about surrogacy. One of the articles in question is titled “All surrogacy is exploitation- the world should follow Sweden’s ban” and is written by Kajsa Ekis Ekman. This title clearly indicates that the author is against surrogacy because it is a form of exploitation. What is surrogacy? It is known as the practice by which a woman (called a surrogate mother) becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby in order to give it to someone who cannot have children. This practice generated since its start in the 1970’s social, economic, religious, ideological and ethical debates. From the beginning of the article, Ekman gives example of the cases of surrogacy that led to scandals, abuse and exploitation. He then indicates that the Swedish government is taking measures to ban all kinds of surrogacy: altruistic and commercial surrogacy. Surrogacy is often used as a mask for an industry that buys and sells human life and this is prohibited by the UN convention on the rights of the child. I am against altruistic surrogacy because the couples who cannot biologically have a child (infertility or same-sex couples) can adopt children who are living a miserable life and surround them with love as if they were their own children. I am strongly against commercial surrogacy because in this case, the women are selling their physical, intimate, and bodily services for money, and this cannot be accepted. Moreover, contrary to many Western countries, commercial surrogacy is legal in India and many Indian women have chosen to become surrogate mothers for Western couples. However, the main reason Indian women are accepting to be surrogates is because they are in an urgent need for money, but it doesn’t come without the judging eye of the neighbors and the society in general as seen in the article we studied about the Indian surrogate. This is an argument on how the rich are exploiting the poor once again and how women are facing a risk of being exploited. We can say that this procedure is unfair because only the rich people are able to access this kind of technique and this increases the gap between what the rich people can afford compared to what the poor can do. We can say that altruistic surrogacy could be a solution to the couples who are facing infertility problems and who have tried adoption without success. However, commercial surrogacy should be banned because it puts in place an industry of selling and buying human lives while exploiting women from the third world countries in need of money.
This progress in medicine led to many debates on various levels such as ethnicity, equality, liberty…. We can say that this advance in the procedure is very new and can create several issues for today’s society. However, progress in medicine can still be seen in a positive aspect when it comes to eliminate diseases, cure sicknesses, help disabled and trying to ensure a longer and better life. I got a document to illustrate this idea showing another side of progress.
The second document is called: “17 years later, Nash family opens up about controversial decision to save dying daughter”, it’s a text about a girl, Molly, who had been saved by her brother, Adam. Indeed, molly had a rare illness and she was destined to die before the age of seven. So Molly’s parents decided to turn to PGD. Thanks to PGD Adam was an ideal bone marrow donor for his sister and thanks to that Molly was cured. She was the first child cured thanks to PGD. So this text perfectly illustrates a type of progress, the medicine improvements. But, this story created an ethical controversy and it was a subject of debate. Molly Nash then became the real-life-inspiration for the new novel “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult, later adapted and turned into a movie. An extract of this novel is actually one of my documents, “Fighting for a future”. It’s the story of a young girl, called Anna Fitzgerald who is born in order to keep her sister Kate alive, because Kate has big health problems. In this extract, Anna is in a lawyer office and wants to sue her parents because she can’t accept this life anymore. At first, the narrator thinks that the girl is here for sur her parent’s because they refuse to let her take birth control pills and because she has been prevented from having an abortion. In fact, he says to his secretary « Can you get the Planned Parenthood for Ms. Fitzgerald? », but he realized that the problem is much more important. Anna wants to sue her parents for the right of her own body and the narrator, the lawyer, says that no one can make her donate an organ if she doesn’t want. Her sister suffers from leukemia, but Anna already gave her a lot of things: lymphocytes, bone marrow, granulocytes… So we realize that since she was born, she was always used in the aim of cure her sister. And as she says « nobody ever asked », up to now, the girl has not given her consent and doesn’t have the choice. Now, it’s one time too many: she doesn’t want to give to her sister a kidney. The girl is considered as a « medicine baby », only created in the aim of saving Kate « They had me so that I could save Kate ». At the end, she decided not to give to her sister her kidney because she doesn’t want to be a spare-part teenager and she want to live her real life. So she decided to sue her parents. This extract underlines the fact that it’s not easy to be a medicine baby. It means that your life a depends on the disease of a sick person. Medicine babies don’t have a private life. They don’t decide of their life. They must have operations according the need of the sick person they must save. They are objects and medical tools, which is unfair on one side, but has many bright sides.
To sum up, by explaining some of effects of progress above, it is obvious that progress is not always positive. Progress always has two sides a bad one and a good one. So, we must be reasonable and use all sorts of progress moderately and in a smart way. There will always be a negative side effect, but maybe the positive side of the situation is worth it? It is up to each and every one of us to judge his own cases and make the decision he think is the best without harming anyone else.