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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."



Chinese scientists to pioneer first human CRISPR trialby David CyranoskiNature NewsJuly 21st, 2016Gene-editing technique to treat lung cancer is due to be tested in people in August.
Sperm Banks Accused of Losing Samples and Lying About Donorsby Tamar LewinThe New York TimesJuly 21st, 2016Sperm banks are not required to verify information provided by sperm donors.
Nudging patients into clinical trialsby Bradley J. FikesThe San Diego Union-TribuneJuly 20th, 2016Incentives include money and rewards such as iPads.
Recruiter Matchtech changes name to Gattaca - same as the hit Hollywood movie about eugenicsby Alan ToveyThe TelegraphJuly 18th, 2016The company claims they did not even consider the connection to the film when they chose the new name.
Do CRISPR enthusiasts have their head in the sand about the safety of gene editing? by Sharon BegleySTATJuly 18th, 2016Off-target effects and other concerns around genome editing should be taken more seriously.
Genome Tea Leavesby Sheldon KrimskyLos Angeles Review of BooksJuly 17th, 2016A review of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History and Steven Monroe Lipkin’s The Age of Genomes: Tales from the Front Lines of Genetic Medicine.
U.N. rights panel urges Kuwait to amend broad DNA testing lawby Stephanie NebehayReutersJuly 15th, 2016The compulsory DNA testing would be a significant violation of people's privacy.
The EEOC’s Final Rule on GINA and Employer-Sponsored Wellness Programs to Take Effect This Monthby Jennifer K. WagnerGenomics Law ReportJuly 14th, 2016The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act now has updated regulations around health information obtained from employees' spouses.
CRISPR Bébés | New Questions on 3P-IVF | Gene Drives | Speed Limits | "Schizophrenic Felon" SpermOur monthly newsletter Biopolitical Views & News rounds up our commentary and recent news stories. Here's the July issue!
Resumed stem cell study by EditorialThe Korea TimesJuly 13th, 2016Stem cell research in Korea has been slow due to a data fabrication incident, but research has recently been approved.
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