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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."



Why Gene Tests for Cancer Don't Offer More Answersby Jessica WapnerScientific AmericanAugust 29th, 2016Genetic profiling of tumors has a long way to go. Many patients learn that their cancers have mutations for which no drug exists
FBI’s New DNA Process Produces More Matches in Suspect Databaseby Devlin BarrettWall Street JournalAugust 25th, 2016In May, the Bureau reduced the number of genetic locations required for a potential match (from 10-13 to 8-9 loci), resulting in thousands of new "hits."
New Surrogacy Bill Bars Married Couples with Kids, NRIs, Gays, Live-ins, Foreignersby Express News ServiceThe Indian ExpressAugust 25th, 2016The Union Cabinet proposes draft bill to only include "altruistic surrogacy" for childless couples who have been married for at least five years.
Surrogacy Still Big Business in Shanghai Despite National Banby Alice YanSouth China Morning PostAugust 25th, 2016Since China's one-child policy relaxed two years ago, the surrogacy industry has been expanding despite recent police raids.
Kuwait’s new DNA collection law is scarier than we ever imaginedby Daniel RiveroFusionAugust 24th, 2016National security policies require residents, citizens, and visitors to submit DNA samples, shaping new definitions of the country's citizenship.
Babies’ Health Could Be Affected by Variation in IVF Nutrientsby Jessica HamzelouNew Scientist August 24th, 2016Pharmaceutical companies keep the "recipe" of IVF culture media a secret, but research suggests long-term health effects for resulting children.
Accessible Synthetic Biology Raises New Concerns for DIY Biological Warfareby Joseph NeighborVICE MotherboardAugust 23rd, 2016The monopoly on biology once held by governments and universities has been broken, posing significant challenges for the international community.
Humans of the Future Could Be Much Faster Than Usain Bolt or Michael PhelpsSouth China Morning PostAugust 23rd, 2016Stephen Hsu predicts the future of selecting genetic variants for our children, ultimately achieving "peak" human performance and intelligence.
Gene Mapping May Not Be for Everyoneby Karen WeintraubUSA TodayAugust 22nd, 2016George Church wants everyone to have their full genome sequenced, but many say we don't know enough about genetics to justify it.
Staying Ahead of Technology’s Curvesby Doug HillBoston GlobeAugust 21st, 2016Embracing new technologies with extraordinary disruptive powers without trying to anticipate and prepare for their potential consequences is now, more than ever, a bad idea.
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