Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Here is a moral problem to solve. Nature sometimes throws up some pretty weird phenomena, not least of which are Siamese twins. In many cases apparently they can with modern surgery be separated but here is the dilemma – just recently conjoined twins have been born in Brazil with two heads, two functioning brains - but a single heart. Doctors say separating the twins, named Jesus and Emanuel, is not currently an option because there is only one set of organs, Reuters reports. They are being monitored by specialists to see how they develop. Dr. Neila Dahas, who is treating the newborns, said surgery was not being considered at the moment. But she said separating the boys would be impossible because of the single set of organs - and that it was difficult to choose which head to remove because both brains were functioning well. And this is the moral dilemma because, if both brains are functioning normally and both have been breastfed with normal appetites then both boys are alive and to take off the head of one is without doubt to commit murder.

Patrick O'Brien, a spokesman for the UK's Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists who has been involved in several conjoined twin cases, said no decisions were likely to be made about Jesus and Emanuel's future for some time. "A lot of work is needed, in terms of scans and tests, before doctors will know if they can separate them or not, and just how organs and blood vessels are shared and linked. It takes quite a while before they can decide how feasible it is." But what if after a lengthy spell of work and tests there is no chance for the boys to be separated. They have now developed further as human beings; does the option of removing one head still remain and how do you decide which one it is to be? Toss a coin? Say eeny-meeny-miny-mo? Pray for enlightenment? It’s a Gordian knot and no mistake. Jesus and Emanuel the boys - they might share one body but they are still two boys - might be named but was God anywhere around when, like so many unfortunates, they were malformed in the womb?

I am most definitely an Epicurean. According to a review in The Sunday Times, in a book, “THE SWERVE: How the Renaissance Began” the author, Steven Greenblatt states that the philosophy of Epicurus, a man now widely misunderstood simply as an advocate for the pleasures of the table was, according to Lucretius much more startling. “Predating modern physics by centuries, he speculated that the universe is composed of atoms in constant motion and that everything in it, from humans to trees is made by these particles swerving randomly and then dissolving in a ceaseless cycle” As Greenblatt puts it, for Epicurus there was “no master plan, no divine architect, no intelligent design” and therefore no afterlife and no fear of death. As a result the highest aims for a human being are the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure – by which he meant achieving peace of mind.

If baby Jesus and baby Emanuel do grow up, will they ever be able to achieve this?

1 comment:

Lewis said...

Epicurus is indeed a largely unknown and greatly misunderstood philosopher, whose thoughts on death have been a great consolation to me and many other of my friends, including Gerd Ohlmer, through whom I got to know his teachings.