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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."



When Baby-Making Moves From the Bedroom to the Laboratoryby Natalie SchreyerMother JonesJuly 28th, 2016Hank Greely discusses the growing shift towards assisted reproduction.
Human Enhancement Freaks People Out, Study Finds; Designer Babies Might 'Meddle With Nature'by Ed CaraMedical DailyJuly 26th, 2016Survey reveals more wariness than excitement for genetic technologies that would 'enhance' people.
Human Enhancement: The Scientific and Ethical Dimensions of Striving for Perfectionby David MasciPew Research CenterJuly 26th, 2016Genetic technologies raise questions ranging from the technical to the social.
Turning back the biological clock comes at a price by Rhiannon Lucy CosslettThe GuardianJuly 25th, 2016Egg freezing is marketed as the answer to precarious young lives yet excludes most of those it claims to help.
Can this woman cure ageing with gene therapy?by Dara Mohammadi & Nicola DavisThe GuardianJuly 24th, 2016Elizabeth Parrish has tried out her company’s anti-aging gene therapy, but the biology of aging may be more complicated than we understand.
Uncle Sam Wants You — Or at Least Your Genetic and Lifestyle Informationby Robert PearThe New York TimesJuly 23rd, 2016The Precision Medicine Initiative will seek participants from various geographies and socioeconomic statuses across the country.
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.
Roma women share stories of forced sterilisationby Renate van der ZeeAl Jazeera [Czech Republic]July 19th, 2016The systematic sterilisation of Roma women was state policy in the former Czechoslovakia. The Czech government has rejected a compensation law.
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