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Should Shortness Be "Cured"?

 
 
Roberta
 
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 08:33 am
The FDA has approved a drug that stimulates growth. The drug has been used previously for children with deficiencies in their bodies that inhibited growth. Now the drug can be used to stimulate growth in children who have nothing wrong with them other than the fact that they're short. (The source of this info is Newsweek, "Will He Measure Up?")

I've been pondering this. On the one hand, being taller may eliminate some teasing in the schoolyard. It may also make things a bit easier later in life, like in sports and dating. Furthermore, studies indicate that taller men are paid more than shorter men.

On the other hand, is shortness something that should be "cured"? Is shortness a disability? The suggestion that it is makes me uneasy.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,272 • Replies: 30
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mac11
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 08:41 am
I agree Roberta, it seems to be a dangerous trend.

But then, we straighten children's teeth. And sixteen-year-olds routinely get nose jobs.

But it's scary nonetheless.
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Grand Duke
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 08:45 am
How can they tell that a child will grow to be especially short (or tall, for that matter)? Looking at the parents' phenotype is not always accurate, as a phenomenom called 'regression to the mean' means that a child of very short parents will probably be taller than either of them (and vice versa for very tall parents).

As for the morality of it, I suppose the parents will have the decision. Which, when looking at something like the totally unnecessary circumcision of most boys in the US (without religious reasons) doesn't always seem like the best idea.

It's a shame that it couldn't be used on adults, who (in theory) should be able to decide their own futures.
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 08:54 am
Roberta, can you post a link? Is this like the bovine growth hormone? What side effects would there be?
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CodeBorg
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 09:29 am
I think we should deliberately engineer any kind of bodies/minds/hearts that we want to create. That's what parents are for.

If someone thinks a personal preference as being a "cure" for a "disease", that's their own perspective. If you choose to wear a blue shirt instead of green, does that mean you are "curing" your use of green? Ugh.

It's just a matter of time before parents will choose the sequence of their child's entire DNA, and create every aspect of their offspring that they care to design. Whether the child resembles a human being or not is irrelevant. It will be done. We just need to think it through, be careful, and try to evolve in the best way possible, that's all.

These days, the furthest I would go is to vaccinate my kids, because the first trials of any new technology are often horrific.
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 09:31 am
Even vaccinations are a bit scary.
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CodeBorg
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 10:01 am
True.
All we can do is research, think for ourselves, and be very cautious.

The professional wrestler Andre The Giant suffered from acromegaly, which means his growth hormones were out of control. Because of his huge growth, his body was in constant pain.

From another bio page:
Height: 7'5"
Weight: 520 pounds
Chest: 71"
Calves: 22"
Thighs: 36"
Wrist: 11"
Hand: 16"
Biceps: 21"
Forearms: 17"
Neck: 24"
Shoesize: 24

PS -- There are some really poignant anecdotes about Andre here.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 01:41 pm
Hi Mac, Do you view this as something like braces or a nose job? Is this a cosmetic alteration? In one way I can see it, but in another I can't. Most cosmetic procedures are focused and somewhat external (at least peripheral to our innards). This is a systemic procedure. Shot are given for years. I'm still uncomforable.

Grand Duke, There may be signs that suggest unusually slow or stunted growth. If there aren't, then I don't know how someone can tell how tall someone will be without waiting until that person has finished growing.

littlek, Here's a link:
http://www.msnbc.com/news/966370.asp

Codeborg, Although you may be right and selective genetics may prevail, I can't agree with your following statement:

I think we should deliberately engineer any kind of bodies/minds/hearts that we want to create. That's what parents are for.

I dont' think that's what parents are for. Parents contribute their DNA and hope for the best. Shaping hearts and minds is another matter.

Your statement: "It will be done. We just need to think it through, be careful, and try to evolve in the best way possible, that's all" scares me. Not so much because it will happen, but because I have strong doubts that it will evolve in the best way possible.

As of now, only those with money can afford elective surgery. And this new treatment is expensive. It's also not covered by health insurance. So only those with money will be able to make their kids taller, make their kids' noses shorter, make their kids' teeth straighter.

Will we end up with a different category of people--the best that money can buy?
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Dartagnan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 01:45 pm
What can be done and what should be done are two different things. This question is part of a larger question concerning manipulation of genes. I have no expertise in this area, but I try to follow what's going on.

Human cloning is really Brave New World stuff, as we learned during that recent craziness with Raelians...
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mac11
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 01:54 pm
I don't personally consider this a cosmetic fix. I was just thinking that maybe someday it will be as ordinary as braces and nose jobs.
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Eva
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 02:42 pm
Could be, mac. I read the Newsweek article, though, and it's frightening. The experts who are giving these treatments to kids admit they don't know what the long-term effects will be.
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CodeBorg
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 06:22 pm
Roberta wrote:
Codeborg, Although you may be right and selective genetics may prevail, I can't agree with your following statement:

I think we should deliberately engineer any kind of bodies/minds/hearts that we want to create. That's what parents are for.

I dont' think that's what parents are for. Parents contribute their DNA and hope for the best. Shaping hearts and minds is another matter.

Worth thinking about . . . We already engineer our childrens bodies with vitamins, exercise, training, prosthetics, prophylactics, chemical enhancements, certain environments -- hopefully in healthy, active ways, but sometimes in messed up ways too. I don't think parenting is a passive spectatorship, but I certainly can't say much until I experience it.

Roberta wrote:
Your statement: "It will be done. We just need to think it through, be careful, and try to evolve in the best way possible, that's all" scares me. Not so much because it will happen, but because I have strong doubts that it will evolve in the best way possible.

Scares me too. Autonomy and power can be very intimidating.
Also, "just" thinking it through will not be enough. We are doomed to face some major disasters, so I hope we approach the technology being ultra-conservative, patient, and very cautious. That's all we *can* do, no?

Roberta wrote:
As of now, only those with money can afford elective surgery. And this new treatment is expensive. It's also not covered by health insurance. So only those with money will be able to make their kids taller, make their kids' noses shorter, make their kids' teeth straighter.

Will we end up with a different category of people--the best that money can buy?

That sounds like Hollywood! (yuck)
Money can't buy you happiness. I suspect the spoiled rich kids might spend so much time occupied with their looks that the happiness of a close, loving, accepting family may be lost to them. Image is nothing. Obey your joy.



----------
"If we could only get people to worry more, we could sell them anything."
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safecracker
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 06:32 pm
I'm 6'1 and seem to like sort woman my wife is 5'2. I think the hormone would be dangeruos and worthless. It's not the size of a person but the size of their heart that matters. (I don't mean litteral heart amyone whos gonna take advantage of wording) lol
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 06:56 pm
If the stature is genetically predetermined, no. If it is the result of a biological or diet deficiency, possibly,depending on the risk.
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LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 08:19 pm
I think that it's incredibly sad that instead of trying to cure the disease that causes smaller kids in the school-yard to be bullied or that causes shorter men (or women?) to be paid less than taller ones, the focus is on curing the "short disease." Jeez...

With all the cosmetic surgery and genetic engineering going on, how interesting is it going to be in a few years to see nothing but stereotypically beautiful, acceptably tall people walking around?

What if you *like* short stature or big noses or bald heads (my personal weakness). Who decides what's acceptable physically? What do you do if you think that perfectly small noses and squared-off jaws on a man or women 6 feet tall or more is unattractive?

I saw a great program about the demand from "ordinary women" for "full-sized" models in fashion mags, because the use of under-weight models was influencing all women in an unhealthy and unflattering way. One of the fashion magazines said that after trying a "full-size" model, they received more mail complaining of the models' appearances than they ever did with the Kate Moss types.

Sometimes it seems that our society -- no matter how much we may claim to accept the tired, the weak, bla bla bla -- would be most happy with a population of beautiful, agreeable clones.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2003 12:37 am
D'art, At this point, we're talking about after-the-fact changes. But I do believe, as you suggest, that it will ultimately come down to genetics.

Mac, Sorry I misunderstood your first comment. And I hope that you're wrong about this treatment becoming commonplace.

Eva, The problem with most new drugs is that they don't know what the long-term effects will be.

Codeborg, I think we agree on the first two points. Parents contribute their genes and are then active in forming the person--heart and mind. And we're both frightened at the possibilities of what the future may bring. As for the "Hollywood" sentiment, by "best" I meant best-looking. I didn't mean to suggest that looking good leads to happiness.

safecracker, I agree that we don't know the long-term harm that may or may not result from the hormone. But there are lots of short kids or parents with short kids who don't think the new treatment is worthless. In a sense, it's simple supply-and-demand economics. It's unlikely that the pharmaceutical company would have submitted the drug for approval for nonmedical usage if it didn't see a profit in it.

Acquiunk, Your suggestion is the way the drug was applied up until now. Only for medical reasons. Someone with a specific deficiency was administered the drug.

Liberty, I'm sad to say that I agree with your assessment. About 10-15 years ago, a magazine called Lear (not sure of the title) was published for older women. The models in the ads were older than we're accustomed to seeing. People complained.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2003 01:51 am
It might cure "short man's syndrome". The plant manager in our department is a classic case. Because he can't intimidate anyone physically, he is the most arrogant arsehole on earth to work for. He's so obviously compensating it's almost funny. Would be if I didn't have to work for the bastard.
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safecracker
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2003 03:17 am
LMAO we had a guy like that at a job I had in highschool, 1 of the guys and I used to wrestle and horse around he was a bouncer part time so he was a pretty big guy, 1 day the lil cocky guy wanted in on it and I almost threw him into 1 of the extruders I felt bad but damn it's hard working with someone like that.

As Roberta pretty much said, this drug is not about it's actual cure or it's side effects but like most other things in the world it's about profit.

If it's not broken don't try and fix it.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2003 03:25 am
I dunno, I'm short, my wife is shorter, and I didn't even know this was a problem until I saw this thread. Randy Newman would be proud. Rolling Eyes
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the prince
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2003 03:33 am
At 5'7'' I am pretty short by London standards. But lots of people "look up" to me - specially where I work.

Yr physical height never defined yr stature !!

Besides - good things always come in small packages Wink
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