Week 4:The Good and Bad Sides of Medical Technology by Sarah Lechner

The topic of this week’s blog was very interesting to me because I am interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Particularly, I am fascinated by the art of surgery. I am a biochemistry major looking to double major in neuroscience, and I eventually want to go to med school and specialize in neurosurgery. Therefore, the topic in lecture this week is very relevant to my future career. Because neurosurgery involves surgeries on a very small scale, machines and technology are often required for the successful completion of the surgery. Many of the procedures done on the brain must be extremely precise, and as technology advances, machines are quickly becoming the most plausible way to obtain this precision.

In the photo above, an electrode is being inserted into the brain in order to treat Parkinson’s disease. It is implanted deep into the brain in order to stimulate the malfunctioning tissue.

Technology has also made it possible for surgeons to “operate” without even cutting into the skull. An example of this is the Gamma Knife radiosurgery that has recently become common practice.

The Gamma Knife is a machine that safely delivers very large amounts of radiation to an extremely specific region in the brain. This region is no larger than a pinpoint. This technology allows physicians to treat brain tumors, both malignant and benign, as well as other brain disorders without actually invading the brain. These procedures were, in the past, considered high risk; now, using the Gamma Knife machine, people can have “brain surgery” in the morning and be at work by mid-afternoon.
Gamma Knife

While advances in technology are positively affecting some realms of surgery, technology also serves in more controversial areas of medicine. One example of this is plastic surgery. We saw some very strong visuals of this during lecture. The artist Orlan uses her body as a canvas as she undergoes plastic surgery. Personally, I find voluntary plastic surgery as grotesque and unnecessary. The new Hollywood trend of altering the face and body is unnatural. I think that undergoing risky surgery for personal gain shouldn’t be permitted. Plastic surgery has been painted as a casual procedure because of its popularity, but people need to realize that it is still a dangerous surgery.

Relating plastic surgery back to the oath—I feel that performing unnecessary surgery is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates states in his oath that practitioners should “abstain from whatever is deleterious.” I think that by some means, plastic surgery can be considered deleterious. It is potentially harmful to the human body and is also not used to cure the patient, but only to appease them.

Conclusively, the use of technology in medicinal practices is a double-edged sword—it proves both advantageous and harmful, depending on the situation. It is for good reason that the Hippocratic Oath is sometimes called the hypocritical oath. Practices such as miracle drugs and plastic surgery seem to openly violate the Hippocratic Oath. If physicians can learn to use technology only for the good (like neurosurgery and other helpful purposes), then the upcoming advances in the medical field will prove to be great news for the human race.

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