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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."



A Single $249 Test Analyzes 30 Cancer Genes. But Do You Need It?by Sarah ZhangWIREDApril 28th, 2016Color Genomics is marketing gene tests for 30 cancers, but doctors caution that our ability to sequence DNA has far outpaced our ability to understand what the results mean.
Human Experimentation: Rethinking The 'Bad Old Days'by Barron LernerForbesApril 19th, 2016The horrors in our medical past require that we not brush them aside as just wrong but that we look hard at why they happened.
‘Buffer genes’ may protect these 13 people from rare genetic diseasesby Jocelyn KaiserScience/AAASApril 11th, 2016Analyzing DNA of 589,000 anonymous donors, researchers were unable to confirm that mutations were not simply genotyping errors, and could not contact the 13 people to verify they were healthy.
The trouble with paying for spermby Alana Cattapan & Françoise BaylisThe Star [Toronto]April 9th, 2016The so-called shortage of Canadian sperm is not about men being unwilling to donate without pay.
Is there a racial "care gap" in medical treatment? [Video][With CGS Advisory Board Member Dorothy Roberts]by Gwen IfillPBS NewsHourApril 5th, 2016A new study finds African-American patients are often treated differently. Among its findings: Medical students believe that African-Americans feel less pain than white patients, and that their skin is thicker.
IVF Ban lifted in Costa Rica: a success for reproductive rights?by Lynn M. MorganPLOS BlogsMarch 30th, 2016After years of political gridlock in the only western hemisphere country to ban IVF, Costa Ricans will finally have access to assisted reproduction.
Teaching medical students to challenge ‘unscientific’ racial categoriesby Ike SwetlitzSTATMarch 10th, 2016Medical school curricula traditionally leave little room for nuanced discussions about the impact of race and racism on health, physicians and sociologists say.
First Uterus Transplant in U.S. Has Failedby Denise GradyThe New York TimesMarch 10th, 2016A day after a news conference lauding what seemed to be a successful surgery, the recipient developed a serious complication and the organ was removed.
Cryonics Taken Apartby Pete ShanksMarch 10th, 2016Corey Pein has written an exposé of Alcor, the cryonics company he describes as "technophilic necromancers."
The perils of human gene editing for reproductionby Marcy DarnovskyWashington ExaminerMarch 8th, 2016Human gene editing for reproduction would be unsafe, is unneeded for medical purposes, and would be dangerously unacceptable on societal grounds.
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