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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."

Feminists, get ready: pregnancy and abortion are about to be disruptedby Eleanor RobertsonThe GuardianOctober 12th, 2015With news of clinical trial for uterine transplants coming soon, the ability for reproductive technologies to traverse the biological limitations of unassisted pregnancy could reshape our understandings of family, employment, and bodily autonomy.
First 'in womb' stem cell trial to beginby James GallagherBBCOctober 12th, 2015In the UK a clinical trial injecting fetal stem cells into babies still in the womb has been announced, to research the effects on symptoms of incurable brittle bone diseases.
What's Missing From Ontario's IVF Policy?by Vanessa GrubenOttawa CitizenOctober 11th, 2015The Canadian province should adopt an explicit policy collecting anonymized data on IVF use, success rates, and complications, and also addressing the information needs of children conceived via donor gametes.
Sky-high price of new stem cell therapies is a growing concernby Michael HiltzikLos Angeles TimesOctober 9th, 2015Biotech companies have launched late-stage clinical trials that could lead to federal approval of two marketable treatments backed by CIRM, California's $6-billion state stem cell program, but drug pricing could be a huge roadblock for patient access and benefit.
Gay or Straight? Saliva Test Can Predict Male Sexual Orientationby Jessica HamzelouNew ScientistOctober 8th, 2015“Suggestive” study results that link genetics and sexual orientation raise troubling questions and potential for abuse.
30k-60K US Sperm and Egg Donor Births Per Year?by Wendy KramerHuffington PostOctober 6th, 2015For the past 28 years the estimated number of children born via donor insemination has remained 30,000: that’s because there is no reliable method of assessing how many children are conceived via donor insemination.
UNESCO Calls for More Regulations on Genome Editing, DTC Genetic Testingby StaffGenomeWebOctober 6th, 2015The organization's International Bioethics Committee released a report recommending a moratorium on genome editing the human germline.
UK Womb Transplants: 5 Ethical Issuesby Rachael RettnerLive ScienceOctober 5th, 2015A new UK clinical trial would expose both patient and developing fetus to autoimmune suppressants, use uteruses from deceased donors, and require that clinical patients have a "long-term partner", even though alternatives to this radical new technology exist.
List of Speakers for NAS Meeting on Human Gene Editingby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogOctober 1st, 2015A preliminary list of speakers for the National Academies' international summit on human gene editing has emerged, with troubling lack of diversity.
What 2,500 Sequenced Genomes Say about Humanity’s Futureby Lizzie WadeWiredSeptember 30th, 2015In light of geneticists’ attempts to find roots of racial health disparities, genomics has gone from being a “race-free” science to being a “race-positive” one.
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