I’m pretty much an atheist/agnostic, so this is not about doctors playing God in my mind. Objectively, it’s a pretty cool experiment that – if effective – could bring loved ones back to their families.
That said, there’s a creeped out zombiephobe in me that imagines any number of things going wrong with horrifying results.
A biotech company in the US has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test whether parts of their central nervous system can be brought back to life.
Scientists will use a combination of therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas.
The trial participants will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support. They will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the upper spinal cord – the lowest region of the brain stem which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.
You know what comes to mind? Frankenstein. Also “The Re-Animator” and The Walking Dead.
Not everything in my head is completely irrational. Other – more rational questions – also pop up.
Will this technique eventually wake the dead?
Will they be the same, or is this technique doing to create a “blank slate” human, who doesn’t remember the life he or she previously lived? And if so, what are the ethical implications of creating such a human being – without the wealth of experience and memories – and essentially without values?
Would this person have to be taught everything from scratch, including who his or her family members and friends are, right from wrong, etc.?
Would they have an insatiable hunger for brains?
I love and respect scientific progress. It has given us life-saving technologies, vaccines that prevent all sorts of communicable diseases, pain relief, and hunger relief, just to name a few. But there’s a part of me that wonders if we’re not moving just a bit too quickly for our own good.
I wonder if sometimes we fail to think outside the box when examining potential consequences of our scientific progress. Sure, it’s impossible that zombies will wake up and eat the living, but what if…?