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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."



Under the Skinby Nathaniel ComfortNatureSeptember 18th, 2014Three recent books focus on whether race is biological and therefore "real." But this question is a dead end, a distraction from what is really at stake in this debate: human social equality.
Three-Parent Babies: It's More Messy Than we Thoughtby EditorialNew ScientistSeptember 18th, 2014It appears that we may have seriously underestimated the influence that mitochondria have. Recent research suggests that they play a key role in some of the most important features of human life.
Surrogates and Couples Face a Maze of Laws, State by Stateby Tamar LewinThe New York TimesSeptember 17th, 2014Surrogacy remains a polarizing and charged issue. There is nothing resembling a national consensus on how to handle it and no federal law, leaving the states free to do as they wish.
The Stupidity of the “Smart Gene”by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesSeptember 17th, 2014Now that “one of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition” has effectively turned up "nothing," can we finally put the notion of “smart genes” behind us?
Arizona GOP Official Resigns After Controversial Commentsby Sean SullivanWashington PostSeptember 15th, 2014Russell Pearce is out after controversial comments about contraception, sterilization and Medicaid.
New Poll Finds Only 18% of British Adults in Support of "3-Person IVF"by Jessica CussinsBiopolitcal TimesSeptember 15th, 2014A newly released poll finds substantial public reluctance to change UK law to allow the genetic modification of future generations.
Defending Human Dignityby Michael CookBioEdgeSeptember 13th, 2014Charles Foster has penned defence of “human dignity” as the foundation of bioethics in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics.
Life is Randomby Cailin O’ConnorSlateSeptember 11th, 2014Biologists now realize that “nature vs. nurture” misses the importance of noise.
New Details Emerge on Retracted STAP Papersby David CyranoskiNature News BlogSeptember 11th, 2014New leaked e-mails showing the comments of referees for Science and Nature provide more insight into the saga of the STAP papers.
Revolving Door Policy Tightened at California Stem Cell Agency by David JensenCalifornia Stem Cell ReportSeptember 10th, 2014Directors of the California stem cell agency approved a measure aimed at easing conflicts of interest involving employees who may seek employment with recipients of the agency’s largess.
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