Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing God?

Long back I wrote a post wondering what difference it would have made to people around me if pre-natal detection of cerebral palsy was possible in the initial stages of pregnancy as it is for Down’s syndrome. I haven’t got a clear cut idea of what I feel about the matter or to put it plainly I’m confused. Some days I feel I’d be the first in line with application if ever euthanasia is legalised in our country.

(I know that the glass-half-full theorists among you are itching to pounce on me for thinking about euthanasia. Don’t worry; I’m the same old jovial person if you talk to me. I still get excited if I see a poster of a new film on the road. I still wish to see the next release. It is just that I feel ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the most correct statement and I’m not fit enough to survive).

If you’re wondering why I suddenly dug out an old post; the circus on news channels regarding an abortion plea in the Mumbai High Court as the foetus was supposed to have congenital heart ailment.

The hospital given the charge of assessing the medical condition made a clerical error and another offered free medical care. I don’t know, but all this feels like a joke to me. I’m not being judgemental here about the action that Mehtas took or being a pro-life advocate. Still it gives me a ticklish feeling somewhere. You’re talking about a life and you say ‘a clerical error’. On the other hand, if the child grows up to be ok and finds all the media clippings what kind of emotions he/she will go through or what kind of equation he/she will have with the parents? At least the identity of the couple could have been kept a secret.

Wonder what the parents of Naga Naresh Karuturi would have done if they’d premonition of what their child will go through in his life.

There will more such instances as we make progress in science. But, I believe that Nature will have its own way of getting even with us.

There is a beautiful passage in Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton about how we tend misuse scientific power:

"You know what's wrong with scientific power?" Malcolm said. "It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails."

Hammond said, "What is he talking about?"

Harding made a sign, indicating delirium. Malcolm cocked his eye.

"I will tell you what I am talking about," he said. "Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

"Now, what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won't abuse it.

"But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. There is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick, make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy. Cheat, lie, falsify-it doesn't matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast.

"And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. You don't even know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it, patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn't even conceive that any discipline might be necessary."

Hammond said, "Do you know what he is talking about?"

Ellie nodded.

"I haven't a clue," Hammond said.

"I'll make it simple," Malcolm said. "A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands. He does not lose his temper and kill his wife. The person who kills is the person who has no discipline, no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special. And that is the kind of power that science fosters, and permits. And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple."


monsoon dreams said...

worth the wait,paresh.thought-provoking and inspiring :-)

Anonymous said...

You thought something. And People can debate on the matter. But at the end it is DESTINY which will have the final word. All have to go by what Destiny has in store. It is the Way Universe functions. We are just puppets in the hands of God. Which God? Who is the God who writes our destiny? What is the name of this God? Well this is another debate and it has been going on around the World for 3 Millenniums, and no clear answer yet!!
World is Full of Chaos and Confusion. Why waste energies thinking about what is not in our Control? But surely reading Stories of Good Writers is a kind of respite in this Mad-World. hcp.

Anonymous said...

Mehtas can still go abroad and abort. why dont they go? Is it illegal to go abroad and abort? if they do it in a country where it is Legal, then law of India should not apply.

Anonymous said...

thanks paresh for bringing together the current discussion in media and the passage from jurassic park... what you said i think also works in the case of political power tooo..where also it is 'inherited' by present day politicians.. in other words, you, the critic, were historicising the issue... it was really provocative...

Anonymous said...

agree a lot about the discipline bit ..
the passage from jurassic park was spot on

Anonymous said...

Hi Paresh,

Nice post and nice topic. But we will never able to decide in a clear cut black and white manner in such areas.
You see few spiritual books have made doctrines for its followers that what they should do in certain conditions. Problem is when these Sons of Gods and Prophets made these statements then man was different and understanding was different and statements were true in certain circumstances but when people are trying to keep alive those statements for todays man and in all the present conditions then a conflict is coming before us.
In such cases, a universal approach can not be followed. Things differ from case to case.
At present we are living where world exists at sevarl levels.
In western world everything will be called suicide even if a 80 year old monk in India or Tibbat is going for last Samadhi and they will use word Euthenesia for it because they think in terms of law or legal matters. They dont have spiritual area to consider the things.
They do discuss this matter only for patients where medical sceience is not advance enough to cure something.
And we have to consider this alsop that when Ultra Sound was not there then women used to give birth to all kind of children and only after their birth they used to know if children had any disease or any kind of physical ailment or lacking.
Re: scientific development with no responsibility its true that a person pressing the button to release misslies carrying atom bomb may not feel anything because he is watching on monitor and he is not aware of the exact damage he is going to produce because he is not physically killing the other person/s. While a pure vegetarian person may perspire heavily if he is given a knife to cut the throat of a hen or cock , leave alone a man because here he is doing it personally.
Whoever will think in terms of moral will find it difficult to support abortion.
But at same time in poor countries, suffering from over population one may bring arguement that after birth also children are going to live a life worse than animals lives.
Human mind can think in all the directions but at the same time it can not capture life in its totallity and only a small portion is understandable for it at a given time. Eras are changed and so definitions and understandings are also changed.
Moral and legal so many times remain two different areas.


Sandeep said...

Something worth thinking and debating. Thoughts-"Provoked"

Dilip Muralidaran said...

pro life according to me is anti women and what they say is bull shit. a woman needs to decide where and when and how she needs a baby, no one else needs to have any right to interfere. if she is not ready for a baby, period. its the end of arguement. all these pro-life assholes and their "god puts a soul in a baby and nobody has the right to kill it" is fucking crap. where the fuck was this pro-life attitude when the holy crusades killed 10 million, when extremist hindus killed 1000's of slum dwelling muslims and islamic terrorists around the world kill millions of people in the name of allah and his prophet? Where is pro-life there? Killing is just circumstantial and if it favours one, they will do it no matter what.

as a cerebral palsy patient i agree with you on "survival of the fittest". i have no dependable friends, i don't have women around me when i want them around, unlike the normal ones who get it all with so much ease. i have to go through shit loads of pain for everything in life because of a dislocated hip caused by cerebral palsy's bad gait. where is pro-life in making a person like me be born in the first place?

is pro-life all about making people suffer willingly and knowingly even though you know of all the consequences they will face if you let them live. better not calmly put an end to it when there is no conscience of the pain? its a question of simple logic and common sense and its no complicated at all. better end something bad at the beginning than let it suffer agony for eternity. there is a saying.... "nipping the bud..."

if the pro-life guys know what it means....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending me link of the blog. Just as i completed reading it my attention was drawn to today's newspaper, which had news about Mrs. Mehta having a it the end of the debate? or beginning of a new one............?
Often it is not survival of fittest, but there is a new book Survival of Sickest, by Dr. Sharon it.

Muthu said...

Dear dear Paresh, topical and written with great sensitivity. I have not read Jurassic Park....only seen the movie. Again the passage that you chose was so universally true and could be used in any context when we speak of power. Look forward to more entries

Unknown said...

Dear Paresh,

Thank you for sending me the link. I agree with you whole heartedly.

The sensitivity exists where there is proximity to actual experience.
People creating wealth or power, do develop an understanding and descipline that others don't. Same thing is pointed out by Anne Rand in "Atlas Shruhgged".

We all invariably hide behind the veil of destiny without recognizing the free will or volition that a person with common sense can exercise to effect a possible change.


Ajit Menon said...

Paresh… Having visited many places across India, what I find good about Kerala is the relatively much lower number of disabled people around. This, I attribute to the higher standards of healthcare, immunization and general awareness. Isn't that a good thing?

If the fetus is terminated, isn’t it possible that the soul would find itself another body and be born a healthy child? We don’t know (yet). Religions have varying ideas about this.

In my perception, if we are to be born, we will be - be it in a perfect body or not so perfect. Anyways, being fully healthy and perfect all life long is extremely rare. We are ALL prone to some disease or wasting.

If I may say so – anyone born with a disability is perfect in every sense except when he compares himself with others (normal people). Even worse is a normal person who is suddenly disabled in an accident or due to medical conditions. Just about anyone could face a terribly destabilizing or catastrophic circumstance in life. So the trick is in finding our “flip side” – the ability to transform our disadvantage into our greatest advantage.

And happiness is just a state of mind. The billionaire, we imagine, could be the most miserable person alive.

Have you seen the movie – Gattaca (not to be confused with the movie Gataka). ( (

“The movie draws on concerns over reproductive technologies which facilitate eugenics, and the possible consequences of such technological developments for society. It also explores the idea of human spirit and the ways in which it can and does govern lives.”

If you have not (which will surprise me)- I am sure you'll enjoy it thoroughly.

:-) Ajit