Tag: human dignity

Bioethics Blogs

Dangers of an Unscientific Policy Process: Why the UK

Several researchers around the world have now turned the CRISPR genome editing craze towards human embryos, reigniting questions around the feasibility, legality, and morality of creating genetically modified humans. Some have suggested that we look for guidance to the United Kingdom’s policy process for “mitochondrial replacement,” also known as “three-person IVF,” which culminated in the world’s first legalization of a procedure that is technically a form of heritable human genetic modification in 2015.

How did the UK come to enable techniques that arguably contradict a policy in force throughout Europe for more than 15 years?

Having followed the process for several years, I would argue that we can learn a great deal from its history, but more specifically in what not to do moving forward in the CRISPR policy debate. In this blog, I will try to explain why.

I am a UK citizen who generally respects Britain’s regulatory models. However, I believe this process failed to live up to its self-image of openness and transparency. The experience taught me that science and technology hold such ingrained cultural and economic capital that people often hear any concern raised – even when it comes from other scientists – as “anti-science” or “anti-technology.” Moreover, it taught me that simple stories can become so compelling and satisfying that they do not bend, even in the presence of critical new information.

In this case, a consequential law was altered on the basis of a group of scientific methods whose human health and safety consequences have not been vetted, and could end up harming those they were designed to help.

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

We goofed. Sorry

We goofed. Sorry

We goofed and we’re eating humble pie. Wednesday, October 19, was World Bioethics Day. I’m afraid that it passed unnoticed at BioEdge, perhaps because every day is World Bioethics Day here. But was also the first time it was celebrated, so we shall be better prepared next year.

However, it appears that very few people were popping champagne bottles in the UK and US even though they must have the larges number of bioethicists. No events were planned in the United Kingdom, only one in the US, and 29 in India. World-wide, there were events in 55 countries, most on the theme of the Day, “human dignity and human rights”. 

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

World Bioethics Day: Human Dignity and Human Rights

World Bioethics Day: Human Dignity and Human Rights

The first World Bioethics Day, sponsored by the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, is taking place on October 19. This year’s theme of Human Dignity and Human Rights will be celebrated in 55 countries worldwide (see here for a list of participating countries and here for a list of planned events).

While most countries are hosting one or two World Bioethics Day events, India has planned a whopping 29. The only event scheduled in the United States is at Indiana University Northwest, which will include presentations on bioethics and human rights and a screening of “No Más Bebés,” a documentary about Mexican-American women who were coercively sterilized at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in the 1960s and 1970s. (Filmmakers Virginia Espino and Renee Tajima-Peña joined CGS on the UC Berkeley campus in 2016 to screen the film as a part of the Being Human in a Biotech Age series. They were also interviewed for the CGS online series Talking Biopolitics by eugenics scholar and CGS advisory board member Alexandra Minna Stern, see here and on YouTube.)

Human dignity and human rights, in addition to being the theme of this first annual World Bioethics Day celebration, form the primary framework of most of the international and national legislation worldwide that prohibits inheritable genetic modification, also known as human germline modification. The most notable among these is the Council of Europe’s 1997 Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights (see here for a global list of national legislation banning inheritable genetic modification).

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

Making Human Hamburgers: Bioethics and the Yuck Factor

September 21, 2016

(Scientific American) – In my decade of teaching bioethics at Columbia University, I have always advocated for the application of five traditional guidelines to evaluate the ethics of an emerging biotechnology. These guidelines are: beneficence, maleficence, justice, autonomy, and respect for human dignity. Still, hovering in the back of my mind, there is another guideline to be considered called the “yuck factor.”

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

Authorizing the Human Person in a Cosmopolitan Age: A Thematic Synthesis

How do religious and secular traditions approach and contest bioethical questions of human dignity and integrity? How can communities coexist peacefully in the wake of unprecedented migrations or in the ashes of intercommunal violence? We weave together the major themes of the CM Rome 2015 plenary conference in a synthetic account that brings to bear relevant scholarship and looks both back at CM’s research trajectory, as well as forward to the future research and outreach agenda of the CM initiative. Read the full article »

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

Authorizing the Human Person in a Cosmopolitan Age: A Thematic Synthesis

How do religious and secular traditions approach and contest bioethical questions of human dignity and integrity? How can communities coexist peacefully in the wake of unprecedented migrations or in the ashes of intercommunal violence? We weave together the major themes of the CM Rome 2015 plenary conference in a synthetic account that brings to bear relevant scholarship and looks both back at CM’s research trajectory, as well as forward to the future research and outreach agenda of the CM initiative.

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

Balancing the benefits and harms of advances in medical technology

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the annual summer conference of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. This year’s conference was titled Transformations in Care, and it was focused on how medical care is changing and the ethical challenges that go along with those changes. As usual, the conference was excellent with thought-provoking speakers and interesting workshops and paper presentations. One of… // Read More »

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: Dissecting the age of ‘do harm’ medicine

Wesley J. Smith is one of America’s leading commentators on bioethical issues, especially assisted suicide and euthanasia. His columns are published in the National Review and he is the author of 14 books. BioEdge interviewed him about his latest, Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine.

*****

BioEdge: This is a thoroughly revised edition of a book you published 16 years ago. In your view, is there less respect for life in American medical culture now? Are there any bright spots?

Wesley J. Smith: There is less respect for human equality and the sanctity of life in healthcare generally, I fear, and not only in the U.S. Indeed, I changed the subtitle of the book to “The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine” because it now grapples with developments outside the United States as well as in my own country. We are all connected, so that what happens in Canada impacts Australia, what happens in the USA can have a pull on South Africa.

I have observed in the 15 years since the first edition of Culture of Death, that throughout the developed world and the West we see a terrible and increasing disrespect for the intrinsic value of the most weak and vulnerable among us. Euthanasia has spread like a stain and grown increasingly toxic. For example, in Belgium medicalized killing is now coupled with organ harvesting—including of the mentally ill. Health care rationing, which is blatant and invidious medical discrimination, is a growing threat. Advocacy continues to discard the dead donor rule in organ transplant medicine, even proposals for the live-harvesting of patients with profound cognitive disabilities.

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

Human-pig ‘chimeras’ may provide vital transplant organs, but come with ethical dilemmas too

Growing human organs in pigs mean they’re doing our dirty work for us.

Organ transplantation is one of modern medicine’s success stories, but it is hampered by a scarcity of donor organs. Figures for the UK published by the NHS Blood and Transport Service show that 429 patients died in 2014-2015 while awaiting an organ. What’s more, many of the 807 removed from the waiting list will have been removed because they became too ill to receive an organ, and are likely to have died as a result.

So while there is a strong ethical imperative to increase the supply of donor organs, many of the methods tried or proposed – presumed consent, allowing organs to be bought and sold, and using lower-grade organs such as those from donors with HIV – are themselves controversial. And even if we accept these approaches it’s unlikely they will be sufficient to meet the demand.

Gene editing techniques such as CRISPR could provide the answer. These techniques allow us to make precise changes in the DNA of living organisms with exciting prospects for treating disease – for example by modifying human DNA to remove genes that cause disease or insert genes associated with natural immunity to conditions such as HIV/AIDS. However, gene editing the DNA of animals could prove equally important for the medical treatment of humans.

Scientists are now working on a technique that would allow human organs to be grown inside pigs. The DNA within a pig embryo that enables it to grow a pancreas is deleted, and human stem cells are injected into the embryo.

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

Human-pig ‘chimeras’ may provide vital transplant organs, but they raise ethical dilemmas

Growing human organs in pigs mean they’re doing our dirty work for us.

Organ transplantation is one of modern medicine’s success stories, but it is hampered by a scarcity of donor organs. Figures for the UK published by the NHS Blood and Transport Service show that 429 patients died in 2014-2015 while awaiting an organ. What’s more, many of the 807 removed from the waiting list will have been removed because they became too ill to receive an organ, and are likely to have died as a result.

So while there is a strong ethical imperative to increase the supply of donor organs, many of the methods tried or proposed – presumed consent, allowing organs to be bought and sold, and using lower-grade organs such as those from donors with HIV – are themselves controversial. And even if we accept these approaches it’s unlikely they will be sufficient to meet the demand.

Gene editing techniques such as CRISPR could provide the answer. These techniques allow us to make precise changes in the DNA of living organisms with exciting prospects for treating disease – for example by modifying human DNA to remove genes that cause disease or insert genes associated with natural immunity to conditions such as HIV/AIDS. However, gene editing the DNA of animals could prove equally important for the medical treatment of humans.

Scientists are now working on a technique that would allow human organs to be grown inside pigs. The DNA within a pig embryo that enables it to grow a pancreas is deleted, and human stem cells are injected into the embryo.

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.