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06/13/2011

Captain America: The Next Great Research Ethics Movie?

With Captain America: The First Avenger not due to release in theaters for more than 6 weeks, the hype is pretty astonishing. And as predictable as Marvel’s pre-movie hyping and merchandising frenzy is the fact that a summer blockbuster and comic book movie would raise some ethical quandaries (although some have argued that X-Men: First Class has already claimed the distinction). But really could this movie inspire serious debate about post-war research ethics, relativism, and more? Is Captain America the bioethics movie of 2011?

captain_america.jpg

At least one blogger thinks so. On Kyle Munkittrick’s Science Not Fiction blog, he raises the question as to whether Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) was coerced into becoming America’s fighting machine. As he puts it, “I’m not so sure that Steve Rogers gave his consent to the experiment in an informed and uncoerced manner.”

After a thorough discussion of how the Declaration of Helsinki applies to Captain America’s plight and some consequentialist justification, Munkittrick concludes that his enlistment and subsequent experimentation were ethical “but just barely.”

Neither being a Captain America fan nor having had a chance to see the film yet, my judgment is still out. But between X-Men and Captain America, it would seem to be one interesting summer for bioethics at the movies.

Summer Johnson McGee, PhD

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