Op-Ed

By now, everyone knows the claims used to argue that bioethicists should accept consulting opportunities and research funding from pharmaceutical and biotech corporations. Proponents of corporate-sponsored bioethics commonly develop variations on three themes.

First, we live in a capitalist economy and bioethicists have the right to seek remuneration for their services. Bioethicists should not be expected to provide pro bono work for corporations; instead, bioethicists ought to be able to offer their professional services as consultants to industry. Bioethicists can promote ethical corporate practices and protect corporate interests by identifying moral concerns related to such topics as embryonic stem cell research and genetically modified crops. For many biotech and pharmaceutical corporations, the use of bioethicists fits within a larger program of risk analysis and risk management1.

Second, bioethicists need to work with different 'stakeholders,' leave their 'ivory towers' and address the moral ambiguities of the marketplace. To understand the complex ethical, legal and social issues facing company executives, corporate compliance officers and industry scientists, ethicists need to visit the boardroom2. Advanced Cell Technology (Worcester, MA, USA), Ardais (Lexington, MA, USA)...