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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."



We need to talk about egg freezingby Eva WisemanThe GuardianFebruary 7th, 2016It’s expensive, frustrating and can be traumatic. As more and more women make the choice to freeze their eggs, do they know exactly what they’re getting into?
Expert: Parents often won't take surrogate kids with defectsby Rod McGuirkAssociated PressFebruary 3rd, 2016Baby Gammy, left by intended parents with his poor surrogate mother in Thailand, was one of several cases of surrogate children abandoned, an expert told a parliamentary inquiry.
How DNA and 'recreational genealogy' is making a case for reparations for slavery by Steven W. ThrasherThe GuardianFebruary 3rd, 2016Alondra Nelson, academic who was at the forefront of Afrofuturism, has a new book on how DNA can help descendants of slaves seeking compensation.
Three-parent DNA treatment for rare defect raises debate [with video][With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]PBS NewshourFebruary 3rd, 2016PBS's William Brangham discusses germline mitochondrial manipulations with Jeffrey Kahn and Marcy Darnovsky.
Britian has jumped the gun on gene editing by Donna DickensonTelegraph [UK]February 2nd, 2016Particularly where the germline of humanity as a whole is concerned, caution and cooperation should prevail.
U.K. Scientists Given OK to Use ‘Gene Editing’ on Human Embryos[cites CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by David MillsHealthlineFebruary 1st, 2016The experiments raise raised concerns over the possibility that “designer babies” will eventually be produced by using gene editing to alter the DNA of embryos.
The United States Once Sterilized Tens of Thousands — Here’s How the Supreme Court Allowed Itby Trevor BurrusMediumJanuary 27th, 2016A lucid and accurate discussion of Buck v. Bell, what led up to it, and its consequences both personal and political.
The First Artificial Insemination Was an Ethical Nightmare by Elizabeth YukoThe AtlanticJanuary 8th, 2016The 19th-century procedure involved lies, a secrecy pledge, and sperm from a surprise donor.
Who is Smart Enough to Decide how to Improve the Human Species?by Joel AchenbachThe Washington PostJanuary 5th, 2016Genetic engineering and molecular biology benefit from the digital revolution. This convergence is arguably one of the biggest stories in the world right now.
King for a Day? On What’s Wrong With Changing the World for the Better by Roland NadlerLaw and Biosciences BlogJanuary 4th, 2016"It’s not so much about ethics (as we usually envision it) as about political philosophy. I’d exhort us to be quicker to ask: who died and made you king?"
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