In the 20th century, medical technology brought us vaccinations, antibiotics, organ transplants, and countless other life-changing advancements. It also made the world smaller by inventing the telephone, the radio, and the internet. From an early age, we’re told that innovations are the key to solving all sorts of problems. So, will the 21st century’s medical miracles save more lives than we think? The answer, sadly, is complicated. While medical technology has certainly made a positive impact, it’s also created some dangerous side effects. Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of medical technology in the 21st century.
What’s the good news about medical technology?
Medical technology has saved a lot of lives in the last 20 years. For example, the polio vaccine eradicated polio from the Western Hemisphere and it’s on its way to being eradicated worldwide. The worldwide smallpox vaccination program was successful and eliminated smallpox. And organ transplants have helped thousands of people with kidney failure or other organ damage to get a new lease on life.
The bad news about medical technology
The bad news is that medical technology has created some negative side effects as well. For example, obesity rates are skyrocketing because of all the easy access to unhealthy food. In 1999, just 14 percent of America’s population was obese, but that number had risen to 34.9 percent in 2014. That’s a lot of people with high cholesterol and diabetes who have been given a false sense of security by their doctors because they technically have “healthy” body weight.
Another negative effect is the increasing number of patients on life support systems. While these devices save lives and give people more time to wait for donor organs, it can be costly and stressful for both the patient’s family and his or her insurance company. In addition, this job can take an emotional toll on hospital staff members as well.
The ugly news about medical technology
The downside of different types of medical technology is that it also created many dangerous side effects. For example, doctors are now seeing a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Up to 50 percent of common infections such as urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of patients with infections that no longer respond to any type of antibiotic. Doctors now say that we may be entering the age of the “post-antibiotic” era, where even simple bacterial infections can become life-threatening.
Another issue with medical technology is that it has led to a new disease: obesity. The invention of refrigeration led us to always have a wide variety of food available, which resulted in 6 million people gaining enough weight to meet the criteria for obesity every year. And then there’s the issue of the radiation emitted by cell phones and devices like laptops, tablets, and other similar gadgets. Cell phones emit radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) which can cause cancer – especially when you use one against your ear for an extended period.
Final thoughts: Is medical technology saving more lives than we thought?
Medical technology has had a net positive effect on society in the 21st century. It’s given us life-saving treatments, effective new medicines, and organ transplants. But it has also created new problems like antibiotic-resistant bacteria and an obsession with physical appearance. As medical technology continues to explode, we will have to make sure that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Bottom line: New medical technologies are saving more lives
The bottom line is that new digital medical services are saving more lives than ever before. For example, in the United States alone, more than 300,000 people die each year from heart disease and stroke. The human toll of these conditions would be much higher if it weren’t for the invention of stents. This technology allows doctors to open clogged arteries and restore blood flow to the heart or brain.
There are many types of medical technologies that have positively impacted the world. In developing countries, where life expectancy is much lower than in the US, technology has allowed healthcare workers to administer vaccines and medical treatment when they couldn’t before because of a lack of infrastructure. And as for side effects? Some say that technology will always have unintended consequences. With every innovation comes a new problem to solve, after all.