Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A disparity of priorities

Bioethics Blog brings up the possibility of a future "obesity vaccine."

I can't help but feel a burning cynicism as I predict the warm acceptance of such a technology: how generous funding from McDonald's will spur its rapid development, how subsidies by the government in light of this "urgent health crisis" will make the vaccine affordable to every low-income child whose parents lack the money to eat anything but fast food, how "vaccine-mobiles" will trek across cities to share the largesse of freedom from flab. "A Modern Miracle!" reads the headlines as nutritionists are shunted back off to the far reaches of food science, their cautions and advice now out of vogue as people celebrate their newfound immunity to prudence.

Meanwhile, a single mother will scrape together her meager finances to give her daughter a chance at a life free of cervical cancer, but $360 is a long way to go, and her pastor says it will promote a sinful life.

1 comment:

Kelly Hills said...

This was my comment on that AJOBlog post:
Besides which, the idea of an obesity vaccine moves very clearly backwards so far as research goes - research which shows obesity has a wide range of causes. Much like trying to put together a large jigsaw puzzle, there is no one clear cause or reason for obesity - we see pieces of the puzzle as its being put together: genetics, willpower, prenatal care, illness, injury, and so on and so forth.

The notion of a single cause for an illness/disease seems as outmoded as the notion that a single gene will be responsible for a single problem. While it can happen, the reality tends to be much more diverse.

We do a disservice to focus on single cause/cure models for illness, be it obesity or anything else. Likewise, when we don't use care in our language when we discuss issues of disease/illness - when we talk about cures for people who might not be looking for one - we contribute to the very stigmatizing social situations that exist, and in theory one would hope bioethicists would be attempting to reduce, rather than reinforce.