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Today’s short post is really just a link to an animal story about Arnold, a Canada goose whose foot was injured. Kindly veterinarians took in the wounded bird and performed surgery to mend his broken limb and toes. However, as they worked on the goose, there was a mysterious tapping at the door…which turned out to be Arnold’s concerned mate! She came over to the surgery to visit and see if he was alright. The story is adorably cute and, since I know LG (my parent’s guest goose who flew down to the barnyard and assumed command of the domestic pilgrim geese and has been lording it over the place ever since), I believe it entirely.

Disturbingly, geese are like little people with wings and giant hard noses. This is obviously not disturbing in and of itself, but it upsets me because so many people I talk to just despise Canada geese (usually because the geese defended their nests against blundering humans or pooped on a moronic golf course somewhere). I keep replaying Arnold’s story…but with some anti-bird cretin calling animal control to have the waterfowl euthanized (or just illegally attacking them outright).

As we can see from Arnold’s mate and from LG, animals have feelings and plans and worries. I wonder how we can make other people see that more clearly…

In recent years, bioethicists and neurological surgeons have been troubled by accounts of a controversial surgery being widely performed in China.  The procedure in question consists of surgically destroying the pleasure center of the brain in order to prevent opium addicts and alcoholics from relapsing into their addictions.  As you might imagine, destroying the physiological structure responsible for one of the most fundamental human motivations does frequently solve addiction problems.  Unfortunately, the surgery also tends to do away with longing, joy, and basic motivation to do anything.  The Chinese authors of the papers put a more positive spin on these results and described the post-operative subjects as “mildness oriented” (i.e. compliant).

3D Brain image (Nucleus Accumbens in red)

3D Brain image (Nucleus Accumbens in red)

This surgical procedure is technically known as “ablation of the nucleus accumbens” and involves cutting open a subject’s skull and using heat to destroy small portions of the brain (which are recursively located in both hemispheres of the brain). Time Magazine (in this useful article) describes the two nucleus accumbens as regions of the brain “saturated with neurons containing dopamine and endogenous opioids, which are involved in pleasure and desire related both to drugs and to ordinary experiences like eating, love and sex.” This procedure is performed while subjects (one shies away from saying “patients”) are awake and conscious in order to minimize damage to other regions of the brain responsible for speech, memory, and movement.

Painting by Mariko Vaughan (acrylic on canvas)

Painting by Mariko Vaughan (acrylic on canvas)

The western medical/scientific community is trying to figure out how to approach this procedure.  General consensus seems to be that the procedure is “horribly misguided” (apparently a medical euphemism for “a crime against humanity”), however a number of American and European doctors recommend publishing the results of these experimental surgeries in order to further understanding of the human brain–while not actually recommending the procedure.  While the surgery does result in a recovery-rate from addition a few percentage points higher than counseling or other non-surgical therapies, it also frequently results in loss of memory, radical personality change, and other emotional problems (not to mention occasional serious problems such as death or coma which are an inherent danger of brain surgery).

braincrpd

A while ago I read a science fiction novel set in the far future.  People who were anxious or miserable could volunteer for Radical Anxiety Termination—a procedure which fully eliminated depression, fear, and suffering, albeit at the cost of all personal volition.  The Radical Anxiety Termination participants immediately became slaves who were sold and traded for whatever uses their masters desired.  The novel was predictably troubling. It does not seem like the Chinese medical establishment has yet perfected Radical Anxiety Termination but they are on the dark road to such an outcome and they need to leave that twisted path immediately.  Just as lobotomies performed in Europe and the United States during the early 20th century proved to be a therapeutic dead end (and a terrible, terrible mistake) so too this surgery is a collective degradation to emotionally ill victims and a fundamental attack on human dignity.

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