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About Bioethics & Human Biotechnology


Bioethics established itself in the late 1960s as a field concerned with the ethical and philosophical implications of certain biological and medical procedures, technologies, and treatments. Early issues included end-of-life decision-making, organ donation, and human experimentation. Human biotechnology became a concern when the first bioethics institutes were established in the early 1970s. This attention skyrocketed in 1990 when the U.S. Human Genome Project earmarked 3% to 5% of its $3 billion federal budget to the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) research program, making its activities the world's largest bioethics program.

Bioethics initially represented diverse ethical philosophies. But by the mid-1980s, most professional bioethicists were grounded in individualist and utilitarian frameworks. Bioethicists appropriately continued to consider informed consent, patient safety and similar topics, but their attention to the broad social and political meanings of human biotechnologies had faded.

This shift has been unfortunate for the public's understanding. Most bioethicists present themselves as disinterested analysts who can be trusted to represent a full range of constituencies: researchers, biotech corporations, patients, religious groups, marginalized communities, and other affected parties. But in fact, many promote their own world views, which often emphasize libertarian values over commitments to the public interest.

The role of bioethics has been further compromised by its increasing financial and professional ties to the biotech industry. Many university bioethics centers receive funding from biotech corporations, and many bioethicists serve as paid or unpaid members of corporate "ethical advisory boards."



Genome Study Predicts DNA of the Whole of Icelandby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMarch 25th, 2015Large genome databases are starting to reveal critical health information—even about people who have not contributed their DNA.
165,000 Engagements End Due to ‘Genetic Incompatibilities’by Hussain Hazzazi and Ayman Al-SaidalaniSaudi GazetteMarch 24th, 2015In Saudi Arabia, health checkups are mandatory for engaged couples before they get married. The program aims to reduce the risk of having children with any blood or gastronomical diseases.
Lisa Ikemoto Guest Piece on Human Germline Genetic Modificationby Lisa C. IkemotoKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogMarch 23rd, 2015The call for a moratorium is as much a game changer as the technology itself. It creates an opportunity for research transparency and open exchange between the scientific community and the lay public.
Practical Plan for Managing Human Germline Genetic Modificationby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogMarch 20th, 2015There is a growing sense of urgency amongst biomedical scientists to take a proactive approach to current and future use of CRISPR technology in human germ cells and embryos.
Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium On Human Genome Editsby Rob SteinNPRMarch 20th, 2015A technology called CRISPR could allow scientists to alter the human genetic code for generations by making genetic changes in a human egg, sperm or embryo. Leading biologists and bioethicists are calling for a worldwide moratorium.
A Tipping Point on Human Germline Modification?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 19th, 2015Amidst reports that human embryos have been modified using the gene editing technique CRISPR, several groups of scientists have issued statements proposing moratoria on human germline genome editing.
These Are All the Things That Could Go Wrong with 23andMe's Drug Development[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Kari PaulMotherboardMarch 19th, 201523andMe announced plans to use its massive DNA database to develop new medical treatments, but experts question what that means for the people who have submitted their data to the company.
States aren't Eager to Regulate Fertility Industry[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Michael OlloveUSA TodayMarch 19th, 2015The Utah Legislature has ventured into the "Wild West of the fertility industry" by passing a law giving children conceived via sperm donation access to the medical histories of their biological fathers.
“High IQ Eggs Wanted” – ads appeal to ego and altruism, offer $10,000by Lisa C. Ikemoto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorMarch 19th, 2015The ABCs of egg donation are SAT, IQ, and college ranking, not to mention youth, race, and good looks, but marketing motivates young women with a carefully calibrated ratio of altruism and financial need.
Universal Newborn Genome Sequencing and Generation Alphaby Ricki Lewis, Biopolitical Times guest contributorMarch 16th, 2015What might the future look like, as whole-genome sequencing of newborns ramps up?
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