My Body, My Cells? Uh, No.
Radiation Level: Elevated
Listening To: Darling Nikki by Prince
When I put my cat to sleep, I asked the vet if I could have my cat’s x-rays. I’d spent around $800 for two sets of them over the last few years, so they were mine, right? Not so, according to the vet. Apparently, the x-rays of my deceased animal were property of the medical clinic, despite the fact that I shelled out eight bills for them. I had to sign a form saying I was “borrowing” the x-rays and would return them later. The vet, a sweet and caring man, of course said I didn’t need to bring them back, I just had to sign the form as a formality. Really?
That got me thinking, when I get x-rays at the dentist, do they also belong to the dental clinic? I don’t have any practical need for photos of my radiated, silver loaded teeth, but still. I paid for them. In theory, I should own them.
The problem gets more complicated when I think of any tissue samples that are taken from my body by doctors. I wonder if most people realize that when a doctor does a biopsy, removes a mole or a cyst, takes any cells what-so-ever, that tissue can be stored, experimented on, grown in culture, cloned, patented, sold for a profit or sent into space without their knowledge. This is legal. There is no need for the patient to provide consent.
The most famous of these cases involves the “immortal” HeLa cells which were taken from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Her cells proved to be extremely valuable in terms of research and aided in the development of the polio vaccine, HIV drugs and numerous other medical break throughs. And HeLa has also caused a lot of ethical questions to be posed, but not answered. (more on HeLa in a later post)
FalloutGirl is all for medical research, particularly for finding a cure for cancer, mental illness and drug addiction. But I am putting a lot of trust into the hands of doctors and for-profit pharmaceutical companies. Enacting laws to force doctors to require patient consent would no doubt impede medical progress. At this point, I’m okay with the “biopsy and run” system, but I think it shouldn’t be a dirty little secret. If someone develops a cure for obesity using my cells, I guess I’d like to know. I think I’m owed that.
What do you think?