Byline: Atul. Goel, Sehdev. Kumar
The skills and expertise required for neurosurgery are awe-inspiring for people everywhere; who else but a neurosurgeon has the delicate and intricate skills to probe and heal the most vital part of human bodies, the center of our being, the very essence of our lives. As such no other profession wields such high admiration in the world.
Such highly specialized and intricate work also calls for the patients' - and of their friends and relatives - utmost trust in the neurosurgeons, and in their commitment to the highest standards of ethical practices.
It calls for a neurosurgeon's reaffirmation in the sanctity of life.
Above all, it calls for a neurosurgeon to do no harm and to resist all temptations that are driven by any impulse that is self-serving and is not in the best interest of the patient who has been entrusted to him.
Last year, in his best-selling book, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery , leading British neurosurgeon, Dr. Henry Marsh, tells us of the precariousness of some his surgical work in this supposed repository of soul, and with myriad capacities for memory, belief, speech, insights and dreams, but which is also mainly jelly and blood. Sometimes, Dr. Marsh confides, he was only 4 mms away from a catastrophe, even with micro-telescopes.
"The skull is a sealed box," he writes, "and there is only a limited amount of space in the head." [sup] Dr. Marsh tells us of the time he conducted a spinal operation on a young mother who, despite everything proceeding uneventfully, woke out of anesthesia paralysed down the right side of her body. He writes that when you approach a patient you have damaged as a surgeon it feels "as though there is a force-field pushing against you, resisting your attempts to open the door behind which the patient is lying." [sup]
Why is it necessary for all neurosurgeons to remind themselves of this "force-field" pushing against them when they so obviously and manifestly inspire awe in others about their remarkable skills and achievements?
Because, now, far more than ever before, temptations to give new twists and turns to ethics-to bioethics specifically-are numerous, and the number of those who are voiceless, and uninformed, and are prone to be abused and used as mere Guiana pigs, is increasing, not only here in India but also worldwide. Because of new technology, new drugs, new surgical procedures, new hubris about the power of man over nature, and new centers of poverty and deprivation in far-flung places, there is sometimes a new sense in medical and biological sciences about what is possible to do, and therefore must be done.
The "lure of the technically sweet"-in the words of Robert J. Oppenheimer, the father of Atom Bomb, is far greater today than it was ever before.
Sadly, the history of such abuse and misuse of medical and biological sciences is long and troubling, and not only during the war periods in...