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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."



Setting the record straightby Martin H. JohnsonReproductive BioMedicine OnlineDecember 1st, 2016A senior editor writes about some shoddy scientific journalism on mitochondrial transfer that was published in his own journal.
"3-Parent Baby" Procedure Faces New Hurdleby Karen WeintraubScientific AmericanNovember 30th, 2016Mitochondrial disease can somehow creep back in, even if a mother’s mitochondria are virtually eliminated in an attempt to block inherited illnesses.
What’s behind those billion-dollar biotech deals? Often, a whole lot of hypeby Damian GardeSTATNovember 28th, 2016Huge deals are measured in "biobucks" — akin to lottery tickets that pay out if and when an experimental drug hits various milestones along the path to commercialization.
'No solid evidence' for IVF add-on successby Deborah CohenBBC PanoramaNovember 28th, 2016A year-long study finds that nearly all costly add-on treatments offered by UK fertility clinics are unreliable, misleading, and risky.
Should We Rewrite the Human Genome?by Alex HardingXconomyNovember 28th, 2016Critics worry that a synthetic human genome could be used in unethical ways. Unlike for clinical trials, there is no regulatory body for basic science research.
Review of Blame: A Novelby Abby Lippman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 28th, 2016Blame is especially important for those unfamiliar with the range of ethical, social, legal, and political issues raised by applications of what is learned in a lab. While a work of fiction, it is definitely not science-fiction
Do Your Family Members Have a Right to Your Genetic Code?by Emily MullinMIT Technology ReviewNovember 22nd, 2016When a woman gets her genome sequenced, questions about privacy arise for her identical twin sister.
Cambodia charges Australian nurse for running surrogacy clinicby Prak Chan ThulReutersNovember 21st, 2016As many South Asian countries take steps to clamp down on commercial surrogacy tourism, stakeholders are confronted with charges.
Obama’s Science Advisors Are Worried About Future CRISPR Terrorismby Daniel OberhausVICE MotherboardNovember 21st, 2016PCAST warn that under current legislation, there is no room for rapid response to threats and misuse, recommending improved biosurveillance as a solution.
Why the Deaf Community Fears President Trumpby Sara NovicVICENovember 18th, 2016According to his biographer, Trump subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development and the superiority of certain genes — an echo of eugenics.
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