Thursday, November 19, 2009

BEFORE RUNNING A RACE - DECIDE THE RACE TO BE RUN

(The following is constructed from my notes taken during the Mullen Lecture at Saint Mary Seminary, Cleveland. The presenter was Fr. Keven FitzGerald SJ)

We talk a lot about the race against disease but the question must be asked, “What kind of race to we want to run?” There are different courses that could be tackled. The predominate goal line toward which we run today seems to be that which may have the greatest monetary reward and may affect percentage wise a very small amount of people at some point in the future. But we know that hundreds of millions of people today could be saved from death and disease right now if they had access to clean water and had proper sanitation. And it would be comparatively inexpensive to achieve.

The touted theory is that there will be a trickledown effect by attacking these highly complex problems. By spending most of our dollars and time on celebrity diseases eventually what will happen is that these cures will be made accessible to the masses. Yet, without any further research, we can state categorically that hundreds of millions of people can be preserved from a profuse amount of diseases and suffering and even agonizing death if they have sanitation and clean water. And we could afford to do right now. Yet this simple solution has not trickled down.

The axiom, “What is more important than you health” has many answers. It is possible that a pill could be developed that would solve all of your problems. But what if you were the only able to afford it? What if the perfect pill for one reason or another made you the loneliest but healthiest person in the world? On the other hand, instead of a pill, what if life met you with a chronic illness but provided you with such a deep love that it made life worth living?

That is not to say that all research in diseases should be stopped. I hated that my father died of Alzheimer’s and my mother of cancer. Yet if I knew that if they endured that (and that I may have to also) that hundreds of millions of people would live far better and longer lives, it would choose it. My cure may not come in my life time – but if my cure is at the expense a X1000s of others’ cures, “no greater is there than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

These are questions worth thinking about for they will tell us what race we are going to run.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

". . . hundreds of millions of people today could be saved from death and disease right now if they had access to clean water and had proper sanitation. And it would be comparatively inexpensive to achieve."

Medical research is so expensive that it has to be funded by government (and other) grants. Let it be. However, Christians and other private individuals of good will can give a little or a lot from their discretionary funds and donate to reputable organizations that are begging for funds in order to accomplish these very things in materially-poor countries. Bonus: if the help comes from Catholic or other Christian organizations, the recipients will receive quality help that does not violate the dignity of the human person and they will give the glory to God, not to some "NGO."

Fr. V said...

Good point.

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