Introduction to the Global Issue
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss caused by the deterioration of the macula, the small center of the retina which allows you to see clearly. 11 million Americans are currently affected by macular degeneration and by 2020, a predicted 196 million people worldwide will be affected. There is currently no known treatment for the disease, which is often brought about by old age, and loss of vision/full blindness is usually the most common outcome. Browse the infographic below for an introduction to macular degeneration and the bioethics issue at hand: HPSC as a cure.
FYI-there will be an opportunity for you to interact and generate your own ideas, so be thinking about your own position! 🙂
Assessing Controversy: Intro to the Field of Bioethics
Now that the issue has been introduced, we need to generate a set of bioethical questions surrounding what course of action we should take. Here are some possible questions for this topic: 1) Should HPSC be used as a treatment for MD? 2) Should people be able to decide whether or not they want to use HPSC as a treatment despite mainstream objections? 3) Should HPSC be used if it can have potentially harmful effects in the future?
Now, to address the questions: In the field of bioethics, there is a universal standard, though sometimes imperfect, in which we use to assess a case. These standards are called principles where a given course of action should align with as many principles as possible. The principles are also considered through the lenses of multiple perspectives so they can be weighed against one another. Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about the principles and how they apply to this case.
Framing the Issue: A Broader Context
This fantastic Ted Talk by Susan Solomon covers some basics of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell research and its possible long-term benefits.
Share your opinion and respond to others! In the Padlet below, let’s get a conversation going. What are your thoughts on using HPSC to cure macular degeneration? Do you think some principles “win” over the others, why? Try taking another perspective: What opposing viewpoint could you qualify and what principles could that viewpoint connect to?
Conclusions & My Opinion
I learned a lot over the course of this project. For me, I have had experience with losing my vision due to retinal detachments, so I very much understand how life-changing it is to gain back vision after you lose it. I also understand some of the ethical counterpoints to the use of HPSC as a cure, because it can have either good or bad long-term consequences. After my research, I personally believe that the ethical principles of autonomy and beneficence “win” for the pro side. If HPSC became a mainstream cure, it could have the potential to bring back the eyesight for millions, and I think that it is crucial that people have the choice to receive that treatment. No compromise is perfect, but I think a good start in using HPSC would be to generate a set of regulations which tackle informed consent for adult cell donors in order to promote transparency and prevent to misuse of HPSC. I recognize that the potential misuse of HPSC (in informed consent issues or cloning humans) can result in breaches of non maleficence and autonomy, but I think that if regulations were established earlier to combat issues of misuse, HPSC could become a valid cure. Lastly, with the idea of religious objections, I believe that autonomy prevails for both the pro and con side here. Those with religious objections should reserve the right to refuse HPSC treatment, and those in support should have the autonomy to undergo treatment. This way, everyone has a form of autonomy. Thanks for stopping by!
A Word From Me!
Link to Sources