Week 2 response: Let the nature roll its dice.

From the lecture last week, we saw how advances in medical imaging technologies have helped to discern many aspects of our body not possible before. However, like other technological advances, the newfound knowledge can enable both desirable and undesirable social outcomes. On the one hand, doctors and patients can benefit from the non-invasive images for a proper diagnosis or surgical procedure; but on the other hand, having earlier information of a certain feature or trait can bring about biases that disproportionally shift the outcome of otherwise random but balanced event. Although not as extreme as the practice of eugenics on a global scale depicted in the hypothetical futuristic world of the film Gattaca shown in class, the use of the ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous ultrasound have already exhibited real and deleterious results for unborn babies in some cultures. Thus it is no longer a question of “if” medical technologies have the potential to rear an ugly end in shaping our future since they have already been abused in like manner. Rather we need to be cognizant of their roles in our existent societies and ask ourselves how we could collectively avoid going down this slippery slope of abuse.

While most people in the Western societies take for grant the conveniences ultrasound brings during pregnancy, its revelation of the gender earlier on in pregnancy have led to unnecessary abortions because of inherent bias against raising girls in some other parts of the world. It is no secret that in some countries people valuate boys more highly than girls. There, women usually bare a lot of pressure to give birth to a boy as the true heir for the husband’s family. The anticipation could be even greater in the underdeveloped countryside where boys are regarded as much needed help for working in the fields, while girls are regards as just another mouth to feed. These parents would anxiously question the doctors the gender of the baby as soon as they can. If the ultrasound reals that they are going to have a baby boy, they would rejoice just like any other people; but if it reals a girl instead, they would seriously consider an abortion just so they could try again to have a boy and avoid having to raise a girl. Accord to the book, Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl, sex selection abortions have led to approximately 160 million missing girls, with most of the unbalancing stemming from Asian countries with the exception of South Korea.

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Governmental interventions comes to mind as the potential fix to reverse the trend in those regions of the world. Indeed, laws that forbid doctors to leak out the secret of the baby’s gender have been instituted in a few of the Asian countries so that people can only know the gender naturally, as well as laws that specifically outlaw abortions because of the sex. Though such laws does abate the majority of the populous from access to the information, those with enough means can still find alternative routes due to the general accessibility of rather cheap ultrasound. It is not that ultrasound in itself is a nefarious tool because it leads to girls being selected out of existence. On the contrary it is an indispensable tool that should not and cannot be locked away. The main problem lies with the information receiver. Not everyone would really want to go through the abortion even though the gender is not of their preference, for it not only kills the baby but can also harm the mother, and there is no guarantee that they would successfully obtain a boy in the future. In addition, the whole basis of the argument of one gender being more valuable than the other needs to be debunked altogether. Thus, the society as a whole need to be better informed and educated to eventually leave the shadow of tradition.

Yinrou Wang

P.S. I want to present week 4 topic, so I will be presenting on week 5.


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