The Ethics of Vanity, Part II

This should raise ethical questions, but instead, it raises questions of market valuation:

Sadly, my hairline is receding, so my interest was easily piqued when I came across Intercytex (LSE: ICX), a small UK biotech which is developing a promising treatment for hair loss.

At 88p, Intercytex is valued at £49m, and I don’t think you can justify that valuation on hair loss alone. However, the company is also developing three skin treatments. All of them are based on cells taken from a baby’s foreskin. Intercytex uses about one foreskin a year and replicates cells from that original piece of skin.

The most advanced skin product is ICX-PRO which is for the treatment of chronic “hard to heal” wounds. PRO is a matrix containing cells which promote wound healing. It’s easier to use than current treatments as well as being cheaper and faster to manufacture.

The story isn’t about the treatment itself, or the science behind it, so there’s little information to allow for proper judgment. Similar to my earlier statement, the now foreskin-free boy is unlikely to receive compensation for his contribution lost foreskin. Yet, there is a potential commercial product built around its removal. Even if he did receive compensation, or at least his foreskin needed to be removed (unlikely), that does not sweep aside the ethical reality. Only the boy can make the decision of foreskin versus contributing to science and industry, even if profit is involved for himself.

The utilitarian argument surrounding how many people he might help is irrelevant, but Western culture doesn’t care about irrelevancy. But what does the company squeeze into its utilitarian worldview? Of the two products the article does not mention, ICX-SKN and ICX-RHY, ICX-RHY is for facial rejuvenation. Consider:

ICX-RHY is a novel facial rejuvenation product designed to enhance the skin’s collagen support matrix, thus enabling the appearance of facial wrinkles and folds to be improved. It aims to provide a more youthful appearance, helping to combat the cosmetic effects of aging.

ICX-RHY comprises allogeneic, collagen-secreting human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) presented in a sterile suspension. It is injected intradermally into the affected area using local anaesthesia. A straightforward and minimally invasive procedure – each injection will deliver a minute volume of ICX-RHY. The benefit is expected to become apparent once injected HDFs have begun to lay down new collagen within the dermis. This effect is expected to be sustained, providing long-term enhancement of the facial appearance. It is anticipated that repeat administrations will be given as required.

I’m well-read in the offensive reasons people circumcise their children, but I’m perpetually stunned by the offensive reasons people will use the suffering of another to help themselves. It’s okay for a child to lose his foreskin so that older, vain people can look a little younger? It’s okay to inject a product derived from the healthy-but-amputated anatomy of an infant? And the selling point is that the facial injection is minimally invasive? I hope to always be stunned by such asinine disregard for logic.

Not surprising is this: If you search for the word foreskin on the Intercytex website, your result will tell you that there are no results. I wonder why.