Ezekiel Emanuel is the Chair of the Department of Bioethics at the Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Emanuel is a well-known authority on the ethics of clinical research, end of life care issues, euthanasia and the ethics of managed care.
He has published in the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancent, JAMA, and many other medical journals. His book The Ends of Human Life: Medical Ethics in a Liberal Polity received an honorable mention for the Rosenhaupt Memorial Book Award by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Dr. Emanuel was educated at Amherst College, Oxford University and Harvard University, from which he holds both an MD and PhD in political philosophy. He also served on the ethics section of President Clinton's Health Care Task Force, on the National Bioethics Advisory Committee, and on the bioethics panel of the Pan American Health Organization.
Question: What forces have shaped humanity most?
Ezekiel Emanuel: Well clearly religion has – both positive and negative. The wars of religion clearly negative; the idea that you have to have something to believe, something to think about, important.
Obviously technological advances. I read a recent statistic which just blew my mind away; that today, the average American has 10 times as much material resources that Americans had in the Civil War, which is just a phenomenal thing when you consider it. And it’s all because of scientific and technological advances. And the ability to harness energy, the ability to transform energy; just phenomenal driver in society. We have better killing machines too. And so both of those things are, I think, phenomenally important.
And we didn’t have much progress in terms of improvement in living standards for millennia until really the developments in the 16th, 17th century of science, and the ability to transform science into technology. And sometimes I think we don’t appreciate the flushed toilet enough; indoor plumbing, indoor heating.
I – in the late 1970s and early 80s – lived in Oxford in rooms that had no central heating. We had a heating coil. And I think you get to appreciate central heating – and the fact that you can actually live at 70 degrees all year around – a lot more when you are freezing and you can’t actually get to sleep because you are shivering so much. And I think that’s just a phenomenal thing to take for granted in our society. And it’s been a very short time since that’s been possible.
Recorded: July 5, 2007