Six Million Dollar ethics lesson

Today I worked on the lesson for my new week’s ethics topic: Bionics. I decided to open by telling the kids about this “old” TV show from the 1970s: The Six Million Dollar Man. After all these years, and the fact that I only ever watched the show as a young kid, I still remember the words of that opening sequence. Hopefully I can pass some knowledge of it on to another generation!

We talk about the idea of giving people artificial limbs if they lose their natural ones in an accident or to disease. I mention that historically prosthetic limbs were fairly crude replacements, but now we can make some that are potentially better than natural limbs. I give the example of Oscar Pistorius who, after a legal battle to be allowed to compete, qualified for the 2012 London Olympics, and ran on his prosthetic legs against able-bodied athletes in the 400 metres. In the first three classes this evening, the students have been split on whether he should have been allowed or not, worried that his carbon fibre running legs might give him an unfair advantage.

Pistorius of course later became notorious for murdering his wife, but I don’t mention that. One of the kids in my last class was South African, and when I showed a photo of Pistorius he said, “Oh, he’s from my country!” I asked him if he knew about Oscar Pistorius, but he said no, he just recognised the athletics uniform. So I presume he didn’t know about the murder part.

We conclude by discussing whether it would be okay to give people prosthetic limbs or other parts that are better, stronger than natural human body parts. And if so, would it be okay for people to have healthy body parts removed in order to have stronger prosthetics attached? This question really split the kids! In my final class tonight two of them were adamant that this should not be allowed, while two thought it was fine if that’s what the person wanted.

In other news today, I took Scully for a lunchtime walk down to a waterside park, picking up some fish & chips on the way. I didn’t go to my normal lookout spot, because it was rather warm today – 24°C – and there’s little shade there. This other park has a lovely shaded bench looking out over the water.

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One thought on “Six Million Dollar ethics lesson”

  1. Wow, rough crowd – why wouldn’t you let someone get an enhanced prostetic if they want one? Debating the sports angle is fine if you did performance enhancing drugs debate, but letting someone implant mechanical or electronical parts for their own amusement is fine – free country.
    BTW – did you hear about the guy who implanted a Tesla remote key in his arm because he kept losing the key? For a car that is going to be replaced within a few years I wouldn’t do that to myself – but it’s his perogative.

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