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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."



Fertility Clinic Courts Controversy With Treatment That Recharges Eggsby Rob SteinNPRMarch 5th, 2015OvaScience hopes to eventually bring the technique to infertile couples in the United States. But the Food and Drug Administration has blocked that effort — pending proof that the technique works and is safe.
Virginia Votes Compensation for Victims of its Eugenic Sterilization Programby Jaydee Hanson, Biopolitical Times guest contributorMarch 5th, 2015Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law was revoked in 1979. It has taken 35 years for the state to decide to provide financial reparations for its victims, each of whom will receive $25,000.
State has DNA Databases from Cradle to Jailby Jeremy B. WhiteThe Sacramento BeeMarch 4th, 2015Soon after every baby in California is born, a hospital worker extracts and logs its genetic information. It will be tested for diseases and then stashed permanently in a warehouse containing a generation of Californians’ DNA.
With World Watching, UK Allows Experiments to Genetically Alter Babiesby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 4th, 2015Despite several possibly insurmountable legal and safety hurdles, the House of Lords gave the final approval needed to move into fertility clinics the embryo modification techniques referred to as “mitochondrial donation.”
Full-Body Transplants Are a Crazy, Wildly Unethical Ideaby Nick StocktonWiredMarch 2nd, 2015For the last week, an Italian neurosurgeon has been executing a full-blown media offensive, talking up his plan to stitch one person’s head to another person’s body.
Human Subjects Protections Under Fire at the University of Minnesotaby Jennifer Couzin-FrankelScienceMarch 2nd, 2015A damning report on how the University of Minnesota protects volunteers in its clinical trials concludes that researchers inadequately reviewed research studies and need more training to better protect the most vulnerable subjects.
Surrogate Mothers in India Unaware of Risksby Frederik JoelvingReutersMarch 2nd, 2015Renting out their wombs may ease financial problems for poor women in India, but new research suggests surrogate mothers there are unaware of the risks and often left out of key medical decisions about their pregnancy.
Anne Wojcicki’s Quest to Put People in Charge of Their Own Health[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Stephanie LeeSan Francisco ChronicleFebruary 28th, 201523andMe has attracted nearly a million customers and more than $126 million in venture capital, but not everyone thinks it should be the one to collect their data.
Reproduction 3.0by Leah RamsayBerman Institute of Bioethics BulletinFebruary 26th, 2015Bioethics scholars discuss the science and ethics of the UK vote to allow mitochondrial manipulation procedures.
How Much Do Stem Cell Treatments Really Cost?by Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogFebruary 22nd, 2015Part of the way that clinics cut corners to boost their profits is by not following FDA regulations, putting patients in danger.
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