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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."



Gene Mapping May Not Be for Everyoneby Karen WeintraubUSA TodayAugust 22nd, 2016George Church wants everyone to have their full genome sequenced, but many say we don't know enough about genetics to justify it.
Staying Ahead of Technology’s Curvesby Doug HillBoston GlobeAugust 21st, 2016Embracing new technologies with extraordinary disruptive powers without trying to anticipate and prepare for their potential consequences is now, more than ever, a bad idea.
These New Stem Cell Treatments Are Expensive — and Unprovenby Michael HiltzikLos Angeles TimesAugust 19th, 2016"Stem cells have become a medical buzzword," Paul Knoepfler notes. "I see a lot of businesses using direct marketing to patients to take advantage of that."
Ethical questions raised in search for Sardinian centenarians' secretsby Stephanie KirchgaessnerThe GuardianAugust 12th, 2016Samples from residents of Sardinia’s "Blue Zone," who are famed for longevity, have been sold to a for-profit British research firm.
Diversity, disability and eugenics: An interview with Rob Sparrowby Xavier SymonsBioEdgeAugust 11th, 2016Philosophers and the medical profession have been way too swift to make judgments about other people’s quality of life. We're not as far from the bad old eugenics as many think.
The Human Egg Business: More Media Coverage of California Cash-for-Eggs Legislation[citing CGS]by David JensenCalifornia Stem Cell ReportAugust 5th, 2016AB2531 is backed by the fertility industry and would remove caps on payments for egg retrieval to induce women to gamble with their health.
Questions about Deaths in Cancer Trials using Gene-Altered Cellsby Katherine DrabiakBiopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 5th, 2016Excitement about immunotherapy and gene therapy approaches to cancer has eclipsed ethical questions about seven recent deaths in clinical trials.
NIH Plans To Lift Ban On Research Funds For Part-Human, Part-Animal Embryosby Rob SteinNPRAugust 4th, 2016Concerns include the inadvertent creation of animals with partly human brains, endowing them with some semblance of human consciousness or human thinking abilities. (Public comment until September 4.)
The Case Against Public Investment in Reproductive Genetic Modificationby Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 3rd, 2016Philosopher Tina Rulli argues that three-person IVF germline modification is not a “life-saving” medical therapy.
It's time for a conversation on parental surrogacy rulesby Celine CooperMontreal GazetteJuly 31st, 2016Is Montreal inching closer to relaxing or even abandoning its entrenched disapproval of procreative surrogacy?
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