Friday, September 19, 2008

The Banality of Evil

Today in lecture, we were discussing the diagnosis of genetic diseases, sickle cell anemia and thalassemia in particular.

Thalassemia is a rather brutal disease when one is homozygous for the disease. It's not pretty. The lecturer discussed various methods by which the Italian island of Sardinia reduced the number of cases of people with the advanced form of the disease. Genetic counseling and widespread testing lead to people not having children if they were at risk of having diseased children.

If that had been all, I would have been fine with it. The professor also decided to mention prenatal testing, and cited abortion as the obvious outcome of such a procedure. She made reference to Italy legalizing abortion in the 70s, and apparently no one has looked back. She made a joke about the Pope being free to mind his own business. Some people in the class chuckled.

I'm not going to pretend that such decisions are easy to make. It's certainly a heavy matter to find out that your child is going to be born with a painfully crippling disease. This doesn't change the morality of such a decision, but I'm not going to trivialize it.

Still, the amazing thing to me was how glib the professor was about the matter, as if she was referring to something as simple as an appendectomy. Some people laughed when she acted glibly about it; I think you could have picked my jaw off the floor.

There are some thing I'll just never understand.


Dr. Church said...

Out of curiosity - are you planning to say anything to your professor about it? Sounds to me like it is warranted.

Hal said...

I'm not entirely certain what I would say, or what the point would be. "I was offended by your glib attitude regarding abortion in class the other day." I'm not really sure what I expect out of her on that one.