by Milo McGehee ’17
What is cloning? What constitutes someone or something as human; is it our biology, or something vastly different? What defines the line between ethics and morality, and how does one apply those concepts to contemporary problems? Does human life have value beyond what one gives it, and if so, how do we judge that value? Is it immoral to use human life as a means to an end? To what extent should a patient leave his or her treatment in the hands of a professional? These questions and more were brought up during a film studies class this past Thursday by guest speaker Micah Hester, a medical ethicist from UAMS (photo above). The lively discussion was based on the class’s recent reading of Never Let Me Go, a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro that was also adapted into a 2010 film directed by Mark Romanek.
Hester’s duty as a medical ethicist is to help individual patients and families solve ethical problems that arise throughout one’s treatment. This complicated job is rooted in the study and application of philosophy, and in this case, ideas stemming from philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. A common conundrum of a medical ethicist is that of organ transplantation, which is a major theme in Ishiguro’s novel; Never Let Me Go uses a not so huge stretch of the imagination to establish a world in which possibly unethical means are used in order to justify an end.
The purpose of this discussion was not purely to allow further reflection of the class’s studies, but to open each student’s eyes to a whole new realm of medicine and philosophy that was previously unknown. As our generation takes a great leap into the future of our species, we take the biggest leap in history. The dawn of this transition, although wonderful and astonishing, leaves many questions to be answered, by students, teachers, and medical ethicists alike.