We always greet advances in medicine with enthusiasm. We hope and pray for new treatments for serious health problems. We are grateful for technology that saves lives. Yet, there is a downside to all this technology.
We have extended lives and in doing so, we have created new problems, new illnesses. Take Alzheimer’s, for example. When people started living longer, we began to see a rise in what was initially thought to be senility. Now we have multiple diagnoses for dementia, one of which is Alzheimer’s. We have machines to keep people alive. Now we’ve run into ethical issues regarding end-of-life and right-to-die. When is it permissible or ethical to turn off the ventilator or remove the feeding tube? But another serious issue is that people start thinking that they can ignore serious health consequences because there are means of overcoming them.
I read an article about an HIV/AIDS survivor who expressed his concerns that young people are taking chances with their lives because they are no longer scared of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Had they witnessed first hand all the horrific side effects of HIV, they would not be so complacent. As it is, HIV treatment has allowed many survivors to live normal lives. Of course, this only applies to those who are being treated. But it is rare for young people in developed countries to see the consequences of AIDS. Perhaps, they need to visit Africa and see the devastation there.
Now, I’m not saying that medical advances are bad. They’re not. It’s great that we can conquer illnesses, but the fight is never won. The battle is never over. There will always be obstacles. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t have to keep fighting so many battles. If people could take responsibility for their actions, we might prevent disease, rather than have to tackle them afterwards. HIV/AIDS is still a major issue, but it does not attract attention as it did in the 1980s. People have forgotten how scary it was when we first heard about it. Young people today were not around to experience it. So, they ignore it. If they were to receive the diagnosis now, they probably would shrug it off and ask for the treatment. Their complacency means that they might not be compliant with the treatments.
Yet, I wonder if behaviour would change if young people knew first-hand about the seriousness of sexually-transmitted diseases. Would there be the same rate of unprotected sex and teenage pregnancies? Would there be any changes in attitude towards sexual activity? Is it really the advances in medicine that have produced this complacency or is it a generational attitude?