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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."

Just What We Need: Slicker Infertility Marketingby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 21st, 2016A serial tech entrepreneur launches a new start-up called Prelude with a hipster-chic website downplaying the many unknowns of egg freezing.
Social science: Include social equity in California Biohubby Science FARE (Feminist Anti-Racist Equity) Collective: Jessica Cussins, Kate Weatherford Darling, Ugo Edu, Laura Mamo, Jenny Reardon & Charis ThompsonNatureOctober 19th, 20165–7% of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative's Biohub health-research budget should be used to design and monitor goals of justice and equality from the outset, or social inequalities could limit the project's potential.
Reports of ‘three-parent babies’ multiplyby Sara ReardonNature NewsOctober 19th, 2016Claims of infants created using mitochondrial manipulation techniques in Mexico and China, and two pregnancies in the Ukraine, stir scientific and ethical debate.
World Bioethics Day: Human Dignity and Human Rightsby Leah LowthorpOctober 19th, 2016October 19 marks the first such international event sponsored by the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics. This year's theme of Human Dignity and Human Rights will be celebrated in 55 countries worldwide.
The Misleading Promise of I.V.F. for Women Over 40by Jane E. BrodyNew York TimesOctober 17th, 2016Miriam Zoll pushes back on the optimistic picture that the fertility industry paints for consumers that masks over 20 million failed IVF cycles.
Meet Prelude Fertility, The $200 Million Startup That Wants To Stop The Biological Clock[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Miguel HelftForbesOctober 17th, 2016Despite short and long-term risks with egg retrieval, fertility companies target young people as a new demographic, putting profits ahead of safety.
Mouse eggs made from skin cells in a dishby David CyranoskiNatureOctober 17th, 2016Research breakthrough sparks debate over the prospect of using stem cell techniques to produce synthetic human eggs from body tissue.
Can a DNA Test Really Predict Opiate Addiction?by Zachary SiegelThe Daily BeastOctober 15th, 2016By combining patient genetic profiles with clinical observations, tech company claims its test is 93% accurate without peer-reviewed evidence.
DNA database could help predict your disease — then get you firedby David LazarusLos Angeles TimesOctober 14th, 2016The "Precision Medicine" project of introducing big data into healthcare comes with a host of risks for individuals and communities, including privacy and genetic discrimination.
Advocacy group anecdotes present one-sided picture of genetic testing for breast cancerby Mary Chris JaklevicHealth News ReviewOctober 13th, 2016The push for BRCA genes screening often glosses over the limited foresight given by testing, the corporate ties of advocates, and the lack of support for women who test positive.
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