Tag: bioterrorism

Bioethics News

The Future of Bioethics: Organ Transplantation, Genetic Testing, and Euthanasia

By Ana Lita

When you think of bioethics, some of the first hot-button topics you may consider are organ transplantation, fertility and genetic engineering, and end-of-life-care. The Global Bioethics Initiative serves as a platform to address many bioethical questions and engages in public debates to develop resolutions to present and emerging issues.

Dr. Ana Lita, founder of the Global Bioethics Initiative, discusses the various areas GBI addresses and highlights the organization’s contributors in their prospective fields. She acknowledges the valuable contribution of the current president of GBI, Dr. Bruce Gelb, in the field of organ transplantation. She also addresses the original co-founder of GBI, Dr. Charles Debrovner, and his lifelong passion in the field of fertility and genetic engineering. Lastly, Dr. Lita offers a brief insight into the future of Bioethics in these uncertain times.

ORGAN MARKETS AND THE ETHICS OF TRANSPLANTATION 

Recent developments in immunosuppressive drugs and improved surgical techniques have now made it much easier to successfully transplant organs from one human body to another. Unfortunately, these developments have led to the rise of black-markets in human organs. This underground market is where people who need kidneys to survive or to improve the quality of their lives, for example, purchasing such organs from impoverished persons in the developing world. In January 2017, scientists announced that they successfully created the first human-pig hybrid and a pig embryo with some human characteristics. Given the increasing need for transplant organs, should such markets be regulated and legalized?  Could the success of therapeutic cloning eliminate the need to consider this option?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

“Ethically Sound” Episode 1: Safeguarding Children

Since the Bioethics Commission was established via Executive Order by President Obama, the Bioethics Commission has released 10 reports on a variety of ethically challenging topics, and has provided recommendations on topics ranging from synthetic biology to neuroscience to whole genome sequencing. In an effort to share the Bioethics Commission’s work with a wide variety of audiences, we are issuing a new podcast series called “Ethically Sound.” Today’s episode, the first in the series, focuses on the Commission’s report Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research, which addressed the ethically challenging topic of when and how to test pediatric medical countermeasures for possible bioterrorism agents. When and how, for example, should we test an anthrax vaccine, approved for adults, in children?

The Ethically Sound: Safeguarding Children podcast centers around the question: How can we best protect children in the event of a bioterrorism attack? At the time this report was written, a vaccine for anthrax had only been tested in adults, but not in children. The Commission was asked to provide recommendations on how this vaccine could be safely tested in children, and when the vaccine would be ethically permissible to test.

The podcast opens with a narrative from Dr. Suzet McKinney, who is the Executive Director of the Illinois Medical District Commission. Dr. McKinney discusses how her public health training taught her that vaccines were largely beneficial, but the thought of an anthrax vaccine that had not been tested in children was a cause for concern. “If there were an anthrax bioterrorism attack in the US and the government determined a need to immunize children with a vaccine that had not been tested and deemed safe, experience tells me that even the most aggressive and comprehensive efforts to educate parents about the risks and potential benefits will be met with anxiety, fear, protest and apprehension… even I would have difficulty agreeing to an untested anthrax vaccine for my own child in the absence of a real, credible threat of attack.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Dr. Donald A. Henderson, Who Helped End Smallpox, Dies at 87

Dr. Donald A. Henderson, a leader of one of mankind’s greatest public health triumphs, the eradication of smallpox, died on Friday in Towson, Md. He was 87. Long after the disease was officially declared eradicated in 1980, he remained in the field as a dean of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and as an adviser on bioterrorism to several presidents

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Interview: “Democratic deliberation” and bioethics

With an election round the corner, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is coming to the end of its term. The Commission recently released its final report, entitled Bioethics for Every Generation: Deliberation and Education in Health, Science and Technology. The report discusses the complexities bioethical decision-making in an age of deep ideological disagreements and rapid biomedical progress. The Commission members are optimistic, suggesting that agreement can be reached on substantive bioethical policy matters through processes of “democratic deliberation”. The report proposes an ambitious educational program to improve the bioethical literacy of the public, and also outlines a series of civic virtues that policy stakeholders should adopt when debating ethical issues.

Last week Xavier Symons, of BioEdge, conducted an email interview with Col. Nelson L. Michael, MD, PhD, about the report and the future of bioethics in the United States. Col. Michael is a PCSBI member, and also Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. 

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BioEdge: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the likely candidates for the Presidency. Will the Commission continuing to function under a new administration?

Nelson Michael: From 1974-1994, national bioethics bodies in the US were established by Congress. Since the mid-1990s, each of the last three presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, has established bioethics commissions to explore ethical issues in science, medicine, and technology. President Barack Obama created the current commission by Executive Order in November 2009. This Commission’s tenure will end when the next President is inaugurated.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: Week of May 20 – Assisted suicide, public health crisis management, and making promises

Chicago Med
In its first season finale (episode 18), Dr. Downey arrives in the emergency department in distress—he is bleeding from his liver as a side effect from his cancer treatment. When he does not awake from the anesthesia, Dr. Rhodes, his protégé, suspects a stroke during surgery. A CT scan shows that Downey did not have a stroke, but rather has a large, inoperable brain tumor—his cancer has metastasized. We are told that his future prognosis is grim and that he is in unrelievable pain. Instead, he asks Rhodes to help him die. This request is a reference back to episode 11 when Rhodes removed a patient’s LVAD at the patient’s request and Choi accuses him of performing an assisted suicide.

Rhodes tells Downey that he can’t help him die. In Illinois there is no legal assisted suicide and the AMA has come out against doctors being involved in that process. In a later scene, Rhodes brings a necklace of puka shells to Downey, a reminder of his love of all things Hawaiian. They have a touching moment of saying goodbye. Then Rhodes leaves the room and seconds later, Downey codes. As the staff rushes into the room, Rhodes yells that he is DNR. The episode ends without any questions. But the strange timing left me with the question of whether Rhodes did assist Downey in a suicide. One possibility is that some of the puka shells actually contained live organisms. The cone snail (which creates the puka shell) is venomous and some have venom that can kill a human.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Who is Afraid of CRISPR Art? by Eben Kirksey

A crowd-sourced Indiegogo funding campaign that raised over $45,000 for do-it-yourself gene editing kits in December, asks: “If you had access to modern synthetic biology tools, what would you create?”  This campaign, which aims to democratize science “so everyone has access,” was launched by Josiah Zayner, who earned a PhD in Molecular Biophysics from the University of Chicago.  For $130 Zayner offers a DIY CRISPR kit that “includes everything you need to make precision genome edits in bacteria at home including Cas9, gRNA and a Donor DNA template.”  This Indiegogo campaign has a special Note to BioHackers: “Each kit comes with all sequence and cloning detail so you can perform your own custom genome engineering.”

Genetically modified organisms, created with CRISPR or other technologies, have the potential to run wild and cause harm to human health and ecological communities.  Zayner’s Indiegogo campaign attracted supporters from around the world, including many nations where there are no clear laws about containment for organisms that have been “biohacked.”  The Federal Bureau of Investigation has targeted hacking communities with the Bioterrorism Protection Team to ferret out possible malicious uses of emergent technologies.  Biohacking can pose significant risks, according to Charis Thompson, Professor of Sociology at University College London and at UC Berkeley.  But security concerns should not blind us to the creative potentials of tools like CRISPR, she says.  During Thompson’s recent address to the Human Gene Editing Summit in Washington she asked: “Are the biosecurity risks exaggerated for citizen use of these technologies? What are the creative and democratic potentials of these techniques?”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Guest Post : Synthetic Biology: Taking care of the public image

Written by Prof. Antonio Diéguez

Universidad de Malaga 

The public image of science is usually subjected to distortions tending to blur the nuances and to generate monolithic assessments.  The mass media contribute to a large extent to the creation of disproportionate expectations in the next and spectacular benefits provided by scientific research, or on the contrary, to the creation of exaggerate concerns lacking in many occasions of a rational basis. This is the reason why any professional scientist with the required talent and vocation should currently assume the task of offering to the public clear and accessible information about the research underway in any field. In the present circumstances, the scientific divulgation cannot be a personal hobby of some scientists or an exclusive task of scientifically educated writers, but it must be a central aspect of scientific practice. Science needs a good public image for its survival –at least in the form it has had so far.  If the scientists do not provide determinedly and abundantly the socially demanded information, then the citizens will look for it in less reliable sources (Internet has plenty of them), with the consequent proliferation of bad information. Information is like money, the counterfeit one finally circulates better than the good one.

Synthetic Biology is a disciplinal field with a huge scientific and economical potential. Some central aspects of the aims and methods in the biological research have been already modified due to its influence. But probably it is its technological potential that could be more attractive for the public opinion.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

How Important Is Population Ethics?

We face very important decisions about climate change policy, healthcare prioritization, energy consumption, and global catastrophic risks.  To what extent can the field of population ethics contribute to real-world decisions on issues like these?  This is one of the central questions being pursued by researchers in the Population Ethics: Theory and Practice project at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University.  The project, overseen by Dr Hilary Greaves, officially began earlier this month, and will continue (at least in its present form) for three years.  The research team aims to make progress in theoretical population ethics, and to assess its relevance to pressing practical issues that affect future generations.

  • What is theoretical population ethics?

It’s a rigorous investigation into plausibility of competing theories about the value or moral desirability of different populations of people, where these populations may vary in terms of:

personal identity (the populations compared may contain different people)
number (the populations may be of different sizes), and,
quality of life (the people in these populations may be at different levels of quality of life, or well-being).

Limited resources make for tough decisions.  Should we spend our $X on deworming pills, or on combating climate change?  One thing we want to know, in approaching this sort of question, is how good the outcome would be if we intervened in one way rather than another.  One thing that’s relevant to the goodness of an outcome is how people in that outcome are faring – are they happy or miserable? 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Commission to Formally Take up Issue of Bioethics Education: Builds Growing Body of Educational Materials

At Wednesday’s public meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission), Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Commission Chair, announced that the Commission’s next topic would integrate education and deliberation.

“I am pleased to announce that we will begin work on a new project in the coming months: a report that will integrate two overarching themes of our work – education and deliberation. We will focus on their symbiotic relationship as twin pillars of public bioethics. Education is required for informed deliberation, and deliberation enhances education at all levels,” Gutmann said. “We are well positioned to make an important contribution in this area, and I look forward to working with all of you on it.”

The Bioethics Commission has noted the need for bioethics education improvement in many of its reports. A formal report with recommendations, plus continuing to develop easily accessible and free materials based on the Commission’s own analysis are efforts to help meet that need. The Commission believes that given the multidisciplinary nature of science and research, bioethics education should be available to a wide variety of disciplines at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels.

It has been almost a year since the Bioethics Commission introduced its first educational modules based on contemporary issues addressed by the Commission. Since it posted that first round Commission staff has produced more than 15 modules and primers based on five Commission reports.

The materials are free for use by educators and professionals in traditional and non-traditional settings across a variety of fields. Additional modules in the Bioethics Commission’s pipeline will add to the growing body of pedagogical materials the Bioethics Commission has developed to support bioethics education.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

New Educational Module on Informed Consent in Safeguarding Children

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has just posted to Bioethics.gov a new educational module on informed consent in the context of pediatric medical countermeasure research. The module integrates material from the Bioethics Commission’s March 2013 report Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research.

The aim of this module is to help teachers and students understand the components of the consent process in the specific context of pediatric medical countermeasure (MCM) research, which investigates interventions to be used for children in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Pediatric MCM research raises complex ethical and regulatory issues. Children cannot ethically or legally give informed consent to participate in research, because their autonomy forms over time and is not fully developed until adulthood. In addition, pediatric MCM research that would take place before a bioterrorism attack occurs (pre-event) is ethically distinct from pediatric MCM research that would take place after an attack (post-event), due to differing risks and potential direct benefits for participants.

The moral and legal equivalent of informed consent in pediatric research involves two components: informed parental permission, and meaningful and developmentally appropriate child assent. In Safeguarding Children the Bioethics Commission’s recommendations emphasize the importance of informed parental permission and meaningful child assent in all pediatric MCM research.

Through discussion questions, scenarios, and exercises this module encourages students to consider the ethical complexities of informed consent in more depth, and offers a timely example and application of the process. The module highlights important differences between pre-event and post-event pediatric MCM research. For example, parents considering enrolling their child in pre-event research need to be well-informed about the lack of any potential direct benefit to their child; and in post-event research, the process of obtaining parental permission might be complicated if parents and children are in different locations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.