Bioethics Blogs

A Stoic on Pluto

Two notable things happened this past month that I feel
compelled to write about: NASA’s
New
Horizons spacecraft reached Pluto
; NASA engineer and manager Claudia
Alexander died of cancer
. These events highlight some very powerful lessons
in bioethics, and indeed about the human condition itself.

 

Lesson #1: We can do
so much.

New Horizons is the first
spacecraft to visit Pluto
, a mission taking almost ten years (or more, if
you count pre-launch), traveling over three
billion miles
, and costing around seven-hundred
million dollars
. It will be our first opportunity to truly investigate an
ice dwarf
planet
, and the information gleaned from it holds the potential to complete
much of our knowledge of the planetary types in our own solar system. Over
eighty years after its discovery by Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto –
our final (local) planetary frontier – is within our grasp.

In medicine as well we find ourselves pushing boundaries. The
development and widespread use of vaccines and antibiotics in the past hundred
years have had remarkable impact on public
health
and our ability to fend or fight off diseases. Medical, surgical,
and technological advances
in the 20th Century
allow many of us to live
longer
than previous generations, and they have enhanced our abilities to engage
in life-sustaining
interventions
at the beginnings of a human life. Indeed with each passing year
in the world of medicine it seems that there is ever more that we are capable
of accomplishing.

Lesson #2: We can
only do so much.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.