Tag: bioethics

Blog Posts (341)

April 30, 2016

Slouching Towards Gattaca

Genetics is the determinism of our age (“Your destiny is determined by your genes”). It appears more scientific than the determinisms of previous ages such as astrology (“Your destiny is in the stars”) or Marxism (“Your destiny is in economics”), and thus has much greater appeal to the people who look to science for The Answers. News headlines breathlessly report the discovery of the “gene... // Read More »
April 29, 2016

A Bit More about the Minimal Genome

Earlier this week, Mark McQuain posted a nice summary of the recently-published work by J. Craig Venter’s group to identify a “minimal genome” for a type of bacterium, the mycoplasmas, which are, as the group points out, “the simplest cells capable of autonomous growth.”  Mark wondered aloud what the implications would be for our understanding of what it is to be human—how many genes do... // Read More »
April 26, 2016

Genetic Prime Patterns

Last month, Science published the results of an ongoing experiment conceived to determine, among other things, the minimum number of genes necessary for viability in a mycoplasma bacterium. Calling their engineered result Syn 3.0, scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) rearranged and reduced the number of genes on the single chromosome of a M. mycoides bacterium and inserted it into a different mycoplasma... // Read More »
April 25, 2016

A brief thought on rising suicide rates

A recent article in The Washington Post describes a very disturbing trend: “The U.S. suicide rate has increased sharply since the turn of the century, led by an even greater rise among middle-aged white people, particularly, women, according to federal data released Friday [April 22]” The article offers some suggestions as to why things have been so grim: last decade’s severe recession, drug addiction, social isolation,... // Read More »
April 21, 2016

Public Attitudes about Gene Editing

A recent Perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine summarizes the results of several public surveys about the acceptability of gene editing.  This summary, which is freely available to the general public online without a subscription, is worth a read.  I think it’s limited by the fact that most of the surveys listed are old.  Only two were done since 2014, and the... // Read More »
April 20, 2016

Who should we listen to?

A BreakPoint commentary by John Stonestreet caught my attention yesterday. He was describing an interaction between a senator and someone testifying before a Senate committee. The context was a hearing on how federal climate policies had impacted economic opportunity, national security, and related issues. In the course of his testimony the senator asked Alex Epstein, who has written a book titled The Moral Case for... // Read More »
April 17, 2016

Can Teaching Ethics be “Safe”?

Though I’ve taught college level ethics classes for fifteen years, I’m still overwhelmed with feelings of both exhilaration and apprehension as I enter the classroom and face forty or more intellectually bright and highly motivated health care majors. For fifty minutes a day, three days a week, we talk about some of the most critical, complex, and controversial issues of our day: embryonic stem cell... // Read More »
April 15, 2016

Doctor-Assisted Suicide in Canada: the Next Step

The general press is reporting that the Liberal majority in Canada has drafted proposed legislation to establish the conditions under which physician-assisted suicide (PAS) would be legal.  Per the Canadian Supreme Court’s order last year that PAS is allowed in Canada, the Parliament has until June 6 to pass it, or the Court’s prior order would come into force.  This would effectively leave judgments of... // Read More »
April 13, 2016

Experimentation on nonviable human embryos

Nature News recently reported that a second Chinese research team has done research on non-viable triploid human embryos in which they used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to introduce a mutation that cripples the immune cell gene CCR5 and would make individuals with the mutation resistant to HIV. This research raises a multitude of ethical concerns. Should we be pursuing such research when we have not decided... // Read More »
April 11, 2016

A day at a bioethics conference

In my life as hospital chaplain, I have observed that bioethics often entails conflict resolution—usually around end-of-life issues. In these situations, the ethics consultant is called upon to consider difficult treatment possibilities and related factors (emotional, spiritual, personal, etc), and then to make recommendations to the medical team. But I have come to learn that the field of bioethics is much broader than conflict resolution... // Read More »