It comes down to this: we cannot find truly ethical guidance in a nature shaped by evolution. Natural selection is random—random as to the mutations that produce variation, random as to the accidents of circumstance that make one variant adaptive and another fatal.
The very brief quote above is from a very long essay by Thomas de Zengotita on the Ethics and the Limits of Evolutionary Psychology. But it started a process of thought that went to my alter ego as a cancer survivor as well as an occasional counselor. A question that always comes up, either for physicians or on forums, is “what are my chances?”. The intent of the question is obvious – the hidden word is “survival”.
The answer can only be given as a statistic. But the truth is that the answerable question is “what are the chances?”. The physician can’t truly answer you as to what your particular chances are. That question is unanswerable. The science is that the human body is made up of anywhere between ten to 100 trillion cells made of billions of bits of genes. What if, after all of the research, clinical trials, and bioscience exploration, after all of the surgeries and chemos and radiation treatments, it turns out that cancer is nothing more than a random act of nature?
There is no horror in this. Only that stamping a statistic on your chart is an exercise in biological futility. To ask that question – what chance do I have – is offering the opportunity to have your hope taken away from you. That’s something that should never happen if only because there isn’t a single physician or researcher that can ever answer that question.
As random an act as cancer might be, so it can be with cure. Never ever deny yourself that bit of opportunity.
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