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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."



Racial Health Disparities: It’s Inequality, Not Genesby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 23rd, 2015A review of genomic research on racial health disparities in heart disease finds it has made “little or no contribution to our understanding.” A new article in The Atlantic puts that in social, political, and historical context.
DNA Editing in Mouse Embryos Prevents Disease[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Sara ReardonNature NewsApril 23rd, 2015“It is a bit of a slippery slope — if you start allowing any editing tool, you open a Pandora’s box of the possibility to edit anything.”
Critics Lash Out At Chinese Scientists Who Edited DNA In Human Embryos[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Rob SteinNPRApril 23rd, 2015For the first time, scientists have edited DNA in human embryos, a highly controversial step long considered off limits.
“It’s a Baby Farm.”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 23rd, 2015A new documentary uncovers the shocking realities of unregulated commercial surrogacy in India.
Editing Human Embryos: So This Happenedby Carl ZimmerNational GeographicApril 22nd, 2015A quick guide to the history behind this research, what the Chinese scientists did, and what it may signify.
Chinese Scientists Genetically Modify Human Embryosby David Cyranoski & Sara ReardonNature NewsApril 22nd, 2015Rumours of germline modification prove true — and look set to reignite an ethical debate.
Public interest group calls for strengthening global policies against human germline modification[Press statement]April 22nd, 2015“No researcher has the moral warrant to flout the globally widespread policy agreement against altering the human germline.”
Seeking Your Input: Survey on Egg Retrievalby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorApril 22nd, 2015We are surveying women’s knowledge and attitudes toward egg retrieval to yield critical insights into how best to frame health information intended to enable women to make informed choices.
New Genetic Tests for Breast Cancer Hold Promiseby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesApril 21st, 2015A Silicon Valley start-up is threatening to upend genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancer by offering a test on a sample of saliva that is so inexpensive, most women could get it.
Journalist Tells Sad History of NC Eugenics Programby John DrescherNews & ObserverApril 17th, 2015For years the sterilization program was considered a forward-thinking approach to prevent those who were institutionalized or on welfare from having children.
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