No doubt 3D printing is catching up in every niche including medicine to offer innovative solutions that weren’t possible otherwise. There have been huge developments already for making technology human-friendly. For instance, we now can print prosthetics at a much lower price and also can customize it to almost every shape and size. However, are we not ignoring the ethical concerns that come along with 3D printing in medicine? Are we actually stressing on how things would shape once the technology will overtake most of the stake of the medical niche? We are far behind that league. Although doctors and researchers are paying attention to the subject, a little, it’s not enough. The government has already started weighing the good and bad by trying to regulate the workflow connected with 3D printing in medicine. But what entails ahead is still a paradox.
For example, what if someone is able to hack into the 3D printer while it’s creating an organ and make changes to the digital file. How would someone know about it? Not until the organ has already started showing trouble after transplant. If the patient is lucky, maybe the IT team would find the trap. But at what cost? All these questions do ring a bell. Is it not important to look through the lenses and find those minute ethical issues that may pose high concerns later? We all are on the same page, isn’t it?
Let’s find out what are the probable ethical concerns with 3D printing in medical science that we must handle beforehand.
Probable Ethical Issues with 3D Printing Applications in Medicine
We have already witnessed how businesses work. Companies first develop technologies and then think of the implications when the problem arises. Because that is how the profit targeted mind works. Unless the government barges in, one may even not bother about paying attention to the loss that entails the developing technology.
Let’s cut the long story, short, and check the points straightforwardly. While these may not be the only concerns, let’s point out some of those that strike us first.
The Cost of Treatment Developed Through 3D Printing
The regulation does come in when it concerns the cost at which the treatment would be available. If it is left in the hands of private companies, it won’t take much time for businesses to quote the treatment as per their profit goals. The companies that would be able to provide such treatments would have the say. Why won’t people look for the option that is easily reachable, even when it means paying more than what it must cost? We have already seen how the organ transplant industry works. There was a time when organ smuggling was at a peak and doomed the underdeveloped countries. So, why not people would pay when it won’t involve such crime at all?
Further motivating companies to quote the treatment at whatever price they like. This isn’t genuine. And, it must not be the case at all.
How to Test Treatments Developed Through 3D Printing
First thing first, will the treatment be safe for humans? Before a medicine or clinical treatment becomes available for patients, it must pass testing on humans. We have already progressed in including 3D Printing for bone transplants. However, it is done with the help of titanium, an already tested material for surgeries. Hence, the implications are already known. But, in the case of organ transplant, the organ would be derived from the patient’s own cells. Hence, there is no way to test it on others before declaring it as a viable treatment.
This is now how the development of a new drug works. The testing can be performed on a considerable number of healthy people before testing on patients. That is how it becomes available as a standard treatment. Here, you cannot expect the same.
Regulation Concerning the Usage of 3D Printing for Medical Treatment
There could be many usages of 3D printing in the medical industry. Some would be essential and others may be for personal enhancements, like cosmetic surgeries. It would be important to regulate those that are important and ignore the ones that are not crucial. But who would find the difference and make the rules?
Is This Technology for Riches Only?
This question had to surface. With so much to offer, additive manufacturing is no more restricted to few hands. It has reached to even consumers. Although the 3D printers for medical applications still remain limited, the future is unpredictable.
What if people started printing organs and keeping it aside just in case if they need it? What if the treatment is too costly to make it completely impossible to afford for the poor? This would certainly suffice the treatment for the use of riches. And, we have seen it all along that medical treatments follow the lead of disparities between rich and poor. Hence, it is a probability that the past would repeat itself with 3D Printing as well.
The avenger movie just falls in our laps when thinking of human mutation with the help of technological advancements. Can 3D printers be used for printing mutated organs capable of providing a better lifestyle? Or, would people be able to live for 150 years? All these sound funny at the moment, but as we are progressing, we do need to look at all sorts of possibilities.
It is imperative to understand the dark side of this revolutionary technology as well. 3D printing, with such profound possibilities, cannot be trusted in every way. There must be tabs to utilize the power of this technology for the best of humankind. Unlike other treatments, this one is way more capable. Hence, it becomes even more important to find out the loose ends that may keep us away from making this technology again for this generation as well as for many coming ones.
To ensure that 3D printing does not get the best of humankind, it must have to be regulated considering all the probable ethical concerns.