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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."



US Congress Moves to Block Human-Embryo Editingby Sara ReardonNature NewsJune 25th, 2015Spending bill would also require religious experts to review recommendations.
Unregulated Surrogacy: Law Yet to Deliverby Vandana ShuklaThe Tribune [India]June 24th, 2015The Indian Council of Medical Research has to draft an appropriate, more equitable legislation that would look at the rights of the surrogate and her health vis-a-vis technology.
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: NAS and NAM Initiative on Human Gene Editingby AnnouncementCommittee On Science, Technology, and LawJune 24th, 2015The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine are launching a major initiative to guide decision making about controversial new research involving human gene editing.
CRISPR: Move Beyond Differencesby Charis ThompsonNature CommentJune 24th, 2015Researchers and ethicists need to see past what can seem to be gendered debates when it comes to the governance of biotechnology.
CRISPR: Science Can't Solve itby Daniel SarewitzNature CommentJune 23rd, 2015Democratically weighing up the benefits and risks of gene editing and artificial intelligence is a political endeavour, not an academic one.
Should You Freeze Your Eggs?by Debora SparMarie ClaireJune 22nd, 2015The entire business of egg freezing borders on a trap. What it's really selling is a hedge against regret: a way for women to avoid waking up one morning with the sudden realization that they've forgotten to have a baby.
"Jurassic World" and the Dinosaurs at the USDAby Rachel SmolkerTruthoutJune 22nd, 2015The regulations of the US Department of Agriculture are in desperate need of an overhaul if they are to protect the public from the derailing of billions of years of evolution for the purpose of corporate profit-making.
Manipulating the Genome of Human Embryos: Some Unforeseen Effectsby Craig HoldregeThe Nature InstituteJune 22nd, 2015Over and beyond technical issues is the pressing ethical concern: should researchers cross the line into genetically manipulating human embryos?
Face Recognition Row Over Right to Identify You in the Streetby Hal HodsonNew ScientistJune 19th, 2015If you are walking down the street, a public street, should a company be able to identify you without your permission?
French Families Sue State to Recognize Surrogate Birthsby Philippe SottoAssociated PressJune 19th, 2015The case could change how surrogate births are handled in France, where infertility treatments are highly regulated and where many consider it unethical to make money off human reproduction.
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