Bioethics Discussion Blog: Should The “Yuk Factor” Hinder Finding The Good for Humanity?

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Should The “Yuk Factor” Hinder Finding The Good for Humanity?

“Yuk!” is an expression used by some people applied to what they know or see as unnatural or disgusting. The “yuk factor” is how this expression can lead to the action of those people to reject and argue against what they understand is the unnatural. This issue was brought to my mind yesterday with a current news article : "LONDON (Reuters) - Research using hybrid human-animal embryos for experiments is ‘monstrous’ and should be banned, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said on Friday.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien said a proposed new law -- the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill -- should outlaw the practice."
The issue appeared to me as to whether religion or morality should really separate nature into two categories, natural and unnatural and then apply the “yuk factor” to those which are deemed “unnatural”.

I found a well written article on this question in the January 1998 issue of Wired by Oliver Morton titled “Overcoming Yuk”. I thought the following excerpts worth contemplating:

"The Yuk factor boils down to a disgust at what seems unnatural. As we live with the unnatural, though, we begin first to accommodate it, then to accept it, then to appreciate it. ... The natural has no special moral status; it merely has a practical pedigree. That which is natural has the advantage of having been shown to work, and we should bear that in mind. But no gene ever knew what would work in advance, or applied itself to a greater purpose than its own replication; the choices recorded in the genome are not moral choices. Morality has only now come to the genome, because only now is the genome open to deliberate action by people with foresight and responsibility. We can choose life in ways nature could not. But we should not be bound by it."

Hopefully, the expressions by the Cardinal regarding the use of hybrid embryos will not be acted upon since such outlawing of the practice may effectively hinder research leading to the healing or prevention of human disease. Let’s move away from simply saying “YUK!” to creating an uplifting, better, more constructive expression, “AHH!” (Advancing Humanity’s Health). What do you think? ..Maurice.

4 Comments:

At Saturday, March 22, 2008 1:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a Yuk Factor example recently in Canada in which Fecal Transplants were not offered to people suffering from ailments such as C. Difficile. This procedure is about as "yukky" as it can get. Only a small amount of physicians offer the service and those who suffer severly were angry that more didn't offer it.


TS

 
At Saturday, March 22, 2008 3:38:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Also, I can say that most doctors probably will leave manual removal of a fecal impaction to the nursing staff. I can proudly state that I think I have performed my share of scraping and picking the stool out in the presence of fecal impactions in my patients. ..Maurice.

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:41:00 AM, Anonymous 1st year md student said...

What concerns me most about basing ethical decisions on the yuk factor seems to be its subjectivity. While I certainly wouldn't state that all ethical decisions have to be based on cold logic and rationalism, this just appears to far distant from those approaches. Since many things that are yuky are hardly unethical, (using leaches medically immediately comes to mind) when and how should we decide what is?

Following this by addressing the "unnatural" aspect. The criticism "unnatural" is so arbitrarily enforced in our society that it seems to be more of a post-hoc justification instead of a genuine ethical failing. I would accept the cardinal's argument much more respectfully had he used the term "ungodly" instead of "monstrous" mainly because, I think that is what he really meant. Except, that kind of argument would of-course not lead to the practice being outlawed, so the secular argument to it being unnatural was more a tactic of rhetoric.

I would say that the yuk factor can play a role in religious scripture based moralities but not in secular ones, Is that acceptable? How as physicians should we be considerate of that?

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 12:12:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

I found a most interesting, and pertinent to this discussion, editorial in the British TimesOnLine which, regarding the response to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, the author takes the view that the British people and the Parliment itself is becoming less conservative.

An excerpt gives one a taste of the editorial:
"It is not only the House of Lords where the culture has changed. There is now far more faith put into science than religion, and leading scientists than in leading churchmen, though in my experience the religious are often the more impressive of the two.

I risk offending the Chinese by observing that I have never met a Nobel prize winner one half as wise as the Dalai Lama, or a quarter as courageous as Pope John Paul II.

The British believe in secular science but have ceased to have faith in their religious instincts."
For the opposing views to the editiorial, read the attached public comments at the site.

To answer "first year md student", physician's should be made aware and take into consideration their patient's religion and religious "yuks" but medicine should only be guided and practiced based on secular science and evidence. We always, as physicians, must be aware that one man's relgious "yuks" may be another man's attempt at survival of an illness. And we care for both patients. ..Maurice.

 

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