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About Public Opinion & Human Biotechnology


Observers often ask, "Where does the public stand on human biotechnology? How do people feel?"

These important questions present challenges for pollsters. Most of the technologies in question are new and often poorly understood. They engage deeply held values, but there is not yet a well-developed vocabulary for their deliberation.

Polls tend to show that public sentiment about human biotechnologies is strongly ambivalent. Most people value their potential to alleviate suffering, yet are apprehensive about the social consequences of some applications.

Views on human biotechnology are strongly shaped by cultural experiences. For example, in the United States, many people focus on the moral status of the embryo, mirroring the abortion debates of recent decades. In contrast, Germans are more likely to interpret powerful biotechnologies though their country's experience with the Holocaust.

One of the most consistent findings of opinion studies is that respondents' answers depend heavily on how questions are worded. For example, two separate surveys in the United States taken one month apart showed contradictory results: one found that 70% supported human embryonic stem cell research while the other found that 70% opposed it. Reading the questions reveals why: The study sponsored by a research advocacy group emphasized the potential for cures, whereas the one sponsored by opponents of abortion rights dwelled on destroying embryos. Thus, survey results must be carefully evaluated and put in an appropriate context.



Majority of UK Women Oppose Legalizing the Creation of "3-Person Embryos"by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 19th, 2014A just-completed poll has found that the UK public is deeply conflicted about the government's move to legalize the creation of "3-person embryos."
New Polling Raises Public Safety Concerns About Three Parent Children Proposalsby Press ReleaseCareMarch 13th, 2014A new opinion poll supports the concern that the Government is rushing ahead with its plans to allow the creation of 3-parent children without public support or the necessary safety tests.
The Technologists' Siren Songby W. Patrick McCrayThe Chronicle of Higher EducationMarch 10th, 2014The prevailing belief of technologists is that technology is the solution to all problems. It is a view especially attractive to those best positioned to reap the benefits of innovation and avoid its unattractive consequences.
FDA Halts 23andMe Personal Genetic Testsby Marcy Darnovsky and Jessica CussinsMedical Laboratory ObserverMarch 10th, 2014After a series of setbacks, what will the future hold for direct-to-consumer genetic testing?
Efforts to Repeat Controversial Stem Cell Technique Intensifyby Carolyn Y. JohnsonThe Boston GlobeMarch 6th, 2014In an effort to bring clarity to one of the most controversial and confusing scientific findings in recent memory, three Japanese scientists have released a detailed protocol explaining step by step how to create stem cells with a simple acid bath.
UK Opens Public Consultation on Draft Regulations to Permit “Three-Person Embryos”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 6th, 2014The UK Department of Health has released draft regulations and begun a three-month public consultation for what it terms “mitochondrial donation.”
Litany of Unknowns Surface at FDA Meeting on Germline Mitochondrial Techniquesby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 6th, 2014An FDA committee held a historic public meeting last week to discuss the scientific, technologic, and clinical issues related to experimental procedures that would alter the human germline.
Canadian Fashion Mogul Nygard Puts his Faith in Stem-Cell Science by Patrick WhiteThe Globe and MailFebruary 28th, 2014The 70-year-old founder of the Nygard fashion empire has turned his focus away from running the business and toward searching for everlasting life through stem-cell science.
Old Songs, New Tests, and Expensive Childrenby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorFebruary 20th, 2014The CEO of AOL justified a restructuring of the company’s 401(K) plan by citing two "distressed babies." This tone-deaf insensitivity was answered by a disapproving choir, but it sadly resembles too many descriptions of the "cost" of people with disabilities.
Opinions about scientific advances blur party-political linesby Matthew Nisbet and Ezra MarkowitzThe ConversationFebruary 19th, 2014We analysed a series of surveys to better understand what the US public thinks about stem cell research and how they formed these opinions, and were able to distinguish between the different factors influencing their beliefs.
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