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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."



Myriad Genetics Fights Off Threats From Rivalsby Joseph WalkerWall Street JournalMay 3rd, 2015Nearly two years after the Supreme Court struck down gene patents, DNA testing firm fights to sustain business model.
How Private DNA Data Led Idaho Cops on a Wild Goose Chase and Linked an Innocent Man to a 20-year-old Murder Caseby Jennifer LynchElectronic Frontier FoundationMay 1st, 2015This case highlights the extreme threats posed to privacy and civil liberties by familial DNA searches and by private, unregulated DNA databases.
Could Genetically Engineered Humans Become a Reality?[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Robert KingWashington ExaminerApril 30th, 2015If you start to modify embryos for health reasons, then it could start humanity down a path towards non-therapeutic enhancements.
Guest Post: A Look Inside a Stem Cell Clinic Infomercial Eventby David BrafmanKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogApril 29th, 2015Over the past several years there has been a proliferation of so-called stem cell ‘clinics’, which promise patients miraculous therapies often for currently incurable diseases and disorders.
NIH Statement on Gene Editing Highlights Need for Stronger US Stance on Genetically Modified Humans, Says Public Interest GroupApril 29th, 2015CGS welcomes NIH Director Francis Collins' unambiguous statement that "altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes ...has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed."
Israel Evacuates Surrogate Babies From Nepal but Leaves the Mothers Behindby Debra KaminTimeApril 28th, 2015The infants’ arrival completed the evacuation of 26 surrogate Israeli babies from Nepal, where a devastating earthquake killed more than 4,000.
How Future Hackers Will Target Your DNAby John SotosWall Street JournalApril 28th, 2015They’ll do this by designing DNA sequences that code for new, living viruses that spread from person to person as easily as measles, and that kill (or sicken) as inevitability as rabies.
Re-Engineering Human Embryos[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Tom AshbrookOn PointApril 28th, 2015Chinese scientists re-engineer human embryo genes, and set off a global moral debate.
National Accreditation Board Suspends All DNA Testing at D.C. Crime Labby Keith L. AlexanderWashington PostApril 27th, 2015The audit ordered “at a minimum” the revalidation of test procedures, new interpretation guidelines for DNA mixture cases, additional training and competency testing of staff.
Why Whole-Genome Testing Hurts More Than it Helpsby H. Gilbert Welch and Wylie BurkeLos Angeles TimesApril 27th, 2015For the medical-industrial complex, whole-genome tests may pay off, but for most people they would be absurd.
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