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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."



Arizona GOP Official Resigns After Controversial Commentsby Sean SullivanWashington PostSeptember 15th, 2014Russell Pearce is out after controversial comments about contraception and Medicaid.
New Poll Finds Only 18% of British Adults in Support of "3-Person IVF"by Jessica CussinsBiopolitcal TimesSeptember 15th, 2014A newly released poll finds substantial reluctance among British public to change UK law to allow the genetic modification of future generations.
Defending Human Dignityby Michael CookBioEdgeSeptember 13th, 2014Charles Foster has penned defence of “human dignity” as the foundation of bioethics in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics.
Life is Randomby Cailin O’ConnorSlateSeptember 11th, 2014Biologists now realize that “nature vs. nurture” misses the importance of noise.
New Details Emerge on Retracted STAP Papersby David CyranoskiNature News BlogSeptember 11th, 2014New leaked e-mails showing the comments of referees for Science and Nature provide more insight into the saga of the STAP papers.
Revolving Door Policy Tightened at California Stem Cell Agency by David JensenCalifornia Stem Cell ReportSeptember 10th, 2014Directors of the California stem cell agency approved a measure aimed at easing conflicts of interest involving employees who may seek employment with recipients of the agency’s largess.
San Francisco Lawmakers Could Pass Resolution Against Sex-Selective Abortion Bansby Nina Liss-SchultzRH Reality CheckSeptember 10th, 2014David Chiu introduced a resolution opposing sex-selective abortion bans on the basis that they perpetuate racial stereotypes that are harmful to women and communities of color.
Genetic Testing Brings Families Together, and Sometimes Tears Them Apartby Julia BelluzVoxSeptember 9th, 2014What 23andMe doesn't promote with its direct-to-consumer genetic tests is that the results can sometimes be painful, especially when users aren't looking for them in the first place.
Genetic Rights and Wrongsby EditorialNatureSeptember 9th, 2014Australia’s decision to uphold a patent on biological material is in danger of hampering the development of diagnostic tests.
Surrogate Targeted After Backing OutBangkok PostSeptember 9th, 2014A Thai surrogate mother who had second thoughts appealed for help from authorities after becoming the target of threats and intimidation by the surrogacy clinic and police working for them.
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