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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."



Tired Tropes and New Twists in the Debate about Human Germline Modificationby Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesMay 28th, 2015Techno-enthusiasts now argue that as we think about the human future, we should rule out considering what we might learn from works of literature and film, as well as those aspects of myth, policy and history they don’t like.
The Lessons of Asilomar for Today’s Scienceby Alexander CapronThe New York TimesMay 28th, 2015Four decades ago, concerns about the science of recombinant DNA led to a global moratorium on cutting-edge research.
Let’s Talk About the Ethics of Germline Modificationby Gregor WolbringImpact EthicsMay 27th, 2015We need clarity about where the public discussion should take place, what exactly it should focus on, and who should participate.
Center for Genetics and Society comments on White House and National Academies approaches to altering the human germline[Press statement]May 27th, 2015“The endorsement of a pause by the White House is an important first step."
The Scope of Eugenics: A Workshopby Jonathan ChernoguzMay 27th, 2015The four-day workshop, organized by the Edmonton-based Living Archives Project on Eugenics in Western Canada, brought together early-career scholars interested in eugenics to discuss historical models and forms of "Newgenics."
The University of Minnesota’s Medical Research Messby Carl ElliottThe New York TimesMay 26th, 2015Rather than dealing forthrightly with these ethical breaches, university officials have seemed more interested in covering up wrongdoing with a variety of underhanded tactics.
Why We Need To Talk Now About The Brave New World Of Editing Genesby Carey GoldbergWBURMay 22nd, 2015Suddenly, it’s no longer purely science fiction that humankind will have the ability to tinker with its own gene pool. But should it?
Weighing The Promises Of Big Genomicsby David DobbsBuzzFeedMay 21st, 2015Your DNA may be up for sale. And the sale depends on an exaggerated picture of genetic power and destiny.
Do We Really Need an Even Better Prenatal Test for Down Syndrome?by Chris KaposyImpact EthicsMay 19th, 2015Because of their ease of use and their non-invasiveness, the new non-invasive prenatal tests for Down syndrome could contribute to increased numbers of selective terminations of pregnancy.
Does Biotech Need Limits?by Azeen GhorayshiBuzzFeed NewsMay 19th, 2015A group of the world’s top scientists and bioethicists just got together to hammer out the goals and limits of 21st-century biotechnology. And some of them really, really don’t agree.
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