Tuesday May 15, 2012
Ethics and modern medicine
By NOR AZARUDDIN HUSNI BIN Hj NURUDDIN
Islam regards human life as an invaluable gift from Allah, and should therefore be both respected and protected.
BIOETHICS is the study of controversial ethics brought about by advances in biotechnology. Bioethicists are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships in human and animal life. It also includes the more commonplace questions of values related to religion.
Bioethics involves issues relating to the beginning and end of life; in human life, all the way from issues relating to in-vitro fertilisation and abortion to euthanasia and palliative care.
It has an impact on every level of the human community. Bioethics is full of difficult ethical questions for everybody: families, hospitals, governments and civilisation.
In animal life, research involving animals has been the subject of intense debate. There are disagreements over whether research involving animals is useful for studying human diseases and for assessing toxicity of medicines or chemicals. Why are animals used in research? Is animal research acceptable from the viewpoint of religion?
Fundamental values on bioethics are at stake; human life, the dignity of the frail and elderly, just healthcare, bodily integrity and the ability to make reasonable decisions.
Principles of bioethics in the Western world were first developed and outlined by two American philosophers and bioethicists – Tom Beauchamp and James F. Childress, in their book Principles of Biomedical Ethics.
Islamic bioethics refers to Islamic guidance relating to the medical and scientific fields, in particular, those dealing with human life.
In Islam, human life is regarded as an invaluable gift from Allah, and should therefore be both respected and protected.
This is evident in many Quranic verses, one of the most important being: “If anyone slays a human being, unless it be (in punishment) for murder or spreading corruption on earth, it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.” (Quran 5:32)
In this verse, two basic principles ensure that the sanctity of human life is preserved. Saving a life is obligatory. Unjustified taking of a life is murder and thus, forbidden.
Any rule that has not been explicitly outlined in the religious texts or formulated from them by jurists is referred to as haram (impermissible).
For this reason, all medical procedures and treatments, as well as conduct between patient and medical professional must be legitimised by the sources of Islamic law – Quran, Hadith or Sunnah, Ijtihad.
In Sunni Islam, ijtihad includes qiyas (analogy), ijma’ (consensus), maslaha (public welfare), urf (customary practice).
Actually, the term bioethical issue is a broad concept that involves a wide range of medical and biological processes that have been implemented in the field of medicine.
However, there are some issues that are widely criticised.Some of the most prominent are abortion (artificial termination of pregnancy), artificial insemination (introduction of semen into the oviduct or uterus by artificial means), assisted suicide (helping terminally ill persons to commit suicide), body modification (deliberate altering of the human body for non-medical reasons), cloning (research involving creation of a copy of some biological entity), eugenics (improving genetic qualities by means of selective breeding), genetically modified organism (an organism which has undergone genetic modification by the means of genetic engineering), life extension (attempts to either slow down or reverse the processes of aging to maximise life span), life support (resorting to medical equipment to keep an individual alive), sex reassignment therapy (medical procedures pertaining to sex reassignment of both trans-gender and inter-sexual individuals); sperm donation (donation of sperm to be eventually used to achieve pregnancy in a woman who is not the person’s sexual partner); surrogacy (a process wherein a woman agrees to carry and deliver a child for a contracted party) and nanomedicine (the application of nanotechnology in the field of medicine).
Bionanotechnology, nanobiotechnology, and nanobiology are terms that refer to the intersection of nanotechnology and biology, which is associated with bioethics or nanoethics.
This discipline helps to indicate the merger of biological research with various fields of nanotechnology.
Nanobiotechnology (sometimes referred to as nanobiology) is best described as helping modern medicine progress from treating symptoms to generating cures and regenerating biological tissues.
Stem cell treatments have been used to fix diseases that are found in the human heart and are in clinical trials in the United States.
Artificial proteins might also become available without the need for harsh chemicals and expensive machines.
Another example of current nanobiotechnological research involves nanospheres coated with fluorescent polymers.
Researchers are seeking to design polymers whose fluorescence is quenched when they encounter specific molecules.
Different polymers would detect different metabolites.
The polymer-coated spheres could become part of new biological assays, and the technology may someday lead to particles which can be introduced into the human body to track down metabolites associated with tumours and other health problems.
DNA nanotechnology is one important example of bionanotechnology. The utilisation of the inherent properties of nucleic acids like DNA to create useful materials is a promising area of modern research.
Expanding technologies and a changing socio-economic system miay reshape every aspect of life.
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI), National Biotechnology Division will on May 22 launch the National Biotechnology Council.
I hope my background on Islamic understanding, nanotechnology and philosophy can contribute to this council.
Right now, nearly 114,000 people in the United States are waiting for life saving organ transplants. Tens of thousands more are in need of tissue, bone and cornea transplants to restore their mobility or sight.