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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."



Open-Source DNAby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 31st, 2014Who are the players to watch in the growing trend to “free” our genetic data, and what does it mean to participate?
Geneticists Tap Human Knockoutsby Ewen CallawayNature NewsOctober 29th, 2014Sequenced genomes reveal mutations that disable single genes and can point to new drugs.
Cambrian Genomics CEO: We’re Going to Design Every Human on a Computer and Make Your Poop Smell Like Bananasby Chris O'BrienVenture BeatOctober 29th, 2014Austen Heinz: His vision for the future will either thrill you or leave you fearing for the future of humanity. There’s not really any room in the middle.
What Good is a Scientific Meeting If You Dismiss the Science?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 29th, 2014The Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament held an evidence hearing last week to examine the science and proposed regulation of so-called “mitochondrial donation,” or “3-person IVF,” but huge swaths of evidence were widely dismissed.
Why Corporate Promotion of Egg Freezing isn’t a “Benefit” to All Women[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Rachel WaldenOur Bodies, Our BlogOctober 28th, 2014Despite the financial generosity, this might not be a good deal for healthy employees of these companies — or for women in the workplace in general.
Silicon Valley’s Egg-Freezing Perk Is Bad for People Across the Boardby Marcy DarnovskyRH Reality CheckOctober 23rd, 2014Egg freezing is an individualized, questionably effective technical fix for a fundamentally social problem.
Minister Sparks Backlash for Suggesting Foreigners Could Undergo 'Three-Parent Babies' IVF Treatment in Britainby Ben Riley-SmithTelegraphOctober 23rd, 2014MPs and peers from across the political divide raised fears the move could create a new front of health tourism, with foreigners coming to the UK to circumvent bans in their home countries.
For $100,000, You Can Clone Your Dogby Josh DeanBloomberg BusinessweekOctober 22nd, 2014Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, infamous for fabricating claims about cloning a human embryo, now uses somatic cell nuclear transfer to clone people's dogs.
Human-Subjects Research: The Ethics Squadby Elie DolginNatureOctober 21st, 2014Bioethicists are setting up consultancies for research — but some scientists question whether they are needed.
Human Intestine Grown in Mouse for First Time as Scientists Say There is Hope to Create 'Spare Parts' for Peopleby Steve ConnorThe IndependentOctober 20th, 2014Whole organs, composed of a complex arrangement of specialized tissues, could one day be made inside a patient’s body.
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