Hot Topics: Health Care

Blog Posts (3110)

May 16, 2016

Taking a ride down the slippery slope

Did you know: we can now make sperm from embryonic stem cells (in mice).  Not only can we create this sperm, but we can use it to successfully fertilize an egg and develop into a fully grown mouse.  And what is the role of bioethics in this scientific discovery, according to the article?  A brief mention of theoretical ethical issues relegated to the end of the news article that no one reads far enough to see, anyway.


Scientific advancements in reproduction have occurred at an unbelievable rate.  We not only have the ability to create sperm, but we can also create an embryo using three genetic donors, choose or reject embryos based on their genetic traits, such as sex, and correct genetic defects by essentially cutting and pasting healthy DNA sequences over defective ones.  Conversely, using such technology, we also have the potential to clone human beings, choose or reject embryos based on traits such as hair color or athletic ability, and irreversibly alter a germ cell line, potentially leading to unknown negative effects in later generations.


While breakthroughs in reproductive technologies have the potential to address issues as important and varied as male infertility, uterine factor infertility, mitochondrial disease, genetic defects and disease, and even artificial gestation, one wonders whether anyone is stopping to ask: to what end?  How will we use this technology?  What are the short- and long-term effects?  How might this technology be misused?  And, my personal favorite, when will we start to regulate how and when we tinker with biology at a genetic level?


Despite the promise of treatment or eradication of genetic diseases using this technology, there is still a persistent and very realistic fear that this technology will be misused.  Even worse, the misuse may become so common as to be considered acceptable, particularly in our profit-driven fertility industry.  Will the desire to prevent Huntington’s disease also lead to the desire to enhance intelligence?  Can we really resist the urge to create so-called designer babies, and should we accept that while some may win the genetic lottery, others will be able to afford to stack the deck?


Bioethicists are sometimes viewed as obstructionists on the path of progress, unnecessarily blocking scientists from discovering all that can be accomplished through science and medicine. (For an excellent rebuttal, read here).  But the very purpose of the vast and diverse field of bioethics is to identify and acknowledge the normative implications of scientific advances and engage in a dialogue that directly addresses the “should” in a world of “could.”  Hence, the age-old question that is often asked but rarely answered: just because we can do it, does it mean we should?


In the world of reproductive technologies and germline manipulation, perhaps the answer, sometimes, is no.



The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.


May 16, 2016

Bioethics Commission Recommends Deliberation and Education to Facilitate Civic Engagement with Pressing Bioethical Concerns

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) recently released Bioethics for Every Generation: Deliberation and Education in Health, Science, and Technology . In Bioethics for Every Generation, the Bioethics Commission addresses how bioethics education and democratic deliberation are mutually reinforcing functions that create a virtuous circle that leads to productive civic engagement. […]
May 16, 2016

Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: Exploring an End of Life Option for Suffering Patients

End of Life Choices New York invites you to the Second Annual Barbara Swartz End of Life Choices Lecture: "Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: Exploring an End of Life Option for Suffering Patients." Speakers: Timothy Kirk, PhD, Ethics Consultan...
May 15, 2016

US District Court Rejects Attack on Brain Death

US District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller On Friday, the US District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a clearly written and cogent decision in Fonseca v. Kaiser, upholding the California Uniform Determination of Death Act. The cou...
May 15, 2016

Honoring Choices Minnesota Conference

Come to Honoring Choices Minnesota "Sharing the Experience 2016" on Thursday, July 21, 2016. Speakers include Rahul Koranne, MD, MBA, FACP Chief Medical Officer Minnesota Hospital Association   "ACP across Minnesota - A call to coll...
May 14, 2016

New York Bill Would Punish Clinicians Who Disregard Patient Directives

Assembly Member Gottfried I was disappointed to see that A.B. 2140 has not advanced in the New York Assembly.   New York and other states provide a safe harbor for physicians and health care providers who adhere in good faith to valid advance ...
May 13, 2016

Reframing Conscientious Care: Q&A with Mara Buchbinder

Elizabeth Dietz
May 13, 2016

Does Florida Require Surrogate Consent for a DNAR Order?

Last month, at a bioethics conference in Miami, I talked to clinicians at a number of different hospitals.  They apparently take three different approaches to answering this question: "Does Florida require surrogate consent for a DNAR order?" The...
May 12, 2016

Doctors Push the PAS Envelope

Over at his “Human Exceptionalism” blog, Wesley Smith has had a steady stream of recent posts about physician-assisted suicide (PAS), also called “physician-aid-in-dying” or “medical-aid-in-dying” (MAID).  “Hat tip” to Mr. Smith for the story that introduced me to the “MAID” acronym.  It is reported that Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons think that the proposed law being considered by the Canadian federal government to allow... // Read More »
May 12, 2016

Career Paths in Public Health Law and Health Law

Join me for this webinar on June 1:  "Career Paths in Public Health Law and Health Law."