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Author Archive: Blog Editor

by Simon Coghlan, Ph.D. and Kobi Leins, Ph.D.

Xenobots have been called “novel living machines” and “living robots”. A co-author of the paper that recently introduced xenobots, said:

They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. [They’re] a new class of artefact: a living, “programmable organism”.

These “reconfigurable organisms” have already provoked philosophical and ethical questions.

Xenobots are under 1mm in size and composed of 500-1000 cells from frog (Xenopus laevis) embryos. After culturing extracted embryonic stem cells, micro-surgery tools help “glue” the naturally sticky cells together in a range of simple organismic configurations, e.g.…

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by Julia Knopes, Ph.D.

Recently, the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) announced that the USMLE Step 1 exam for medical students will change its score reporting from a numeric score to pass/fail as of 2022. This news signals a substantial shift for medical education in North America and in particular the United States, as numeric Step 1 scores have been traditionally used to screen the most competitive applicants for physician residency programs. My hope is that the change in Step 1 scoring may lead to more holistic residency applications, as well as reduced medical student burnout when facing these life-altering exam scores.…

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by Julian Cockbain[1] and Sigrid Sterckx[2]

In a target article in this Journal in 2018, for which we were two of the co-authors, we discussed the problematic nature of the patenting of foundational (bio)technological processes, in particular the CRISPR-Cas9 (CRISPR) gene-editing technique. This note is intended to bring the Journal’s readers up to speed on a couple of important recent developments in the CRISPR patent sphere.

In the case of CRISPR, the patent situation is complicated by the sheer number of parties seeking patents, as a result of which any entity seeking to use or develop CRISPR faces a forest of patent claims, and thus the task of negotiating multiple licenses and/or the prospect of mouth-wateringly expensive patent litigation.…

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by Hannah Giunta D.O., Ph.D. & Richard Sharp, Ph.D.

In their article, MacKay and Saylor analyze the issue of fair subject selection in clinical research and suggest that this overarching principle is best understood as a collection of four sub-principles, namely fair inclusion, fair opportunity, fair burden sharing, and fair distribution of third-party risks. After describing these principles, the authors suggest several strategies for managing potential tensions between these four sub-imperatives, as conflicts are likely in practice. The authors’ strategies for negotiating the multiple ethical perspectives highlighted by these sub-imperatives are crucial because they support a robust concept of fairness that acknowledges the need to protect research volunteers without denying them access to potentially beneficial research.…

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by Vera Lúcia Raposo, Ph.D.

Last December it was made public that He Jiankui was sentenced to 3 years in prison and a fine of 3M yuan due to the genetic modification of two twin babies. This story is an epic science-fiction drama that might dictate the future of gene editing in China.

Let’s go back in time, however, to late November 2018, when He Jiankui announced the birth of the first genetically modified babies in the entire world. The twin girls, Nana and Luna, were born in the aftermath of a scientific experiment (this is the proper designation for what happened) involving several couples in which the male was an HIV carrier.…

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by Craig Klugman, Ph.D. and Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

The end of the year usually brings a media blitz of top ten lists for the year that is ending. Thus, it seems appropriate for a list of the top ten (actually eleven) bioethics stories of 2019. This is not a scientific list, it is simply for entertainment and is constructed based solely on the opinion of the blog editors at However, this is not a hierarchical list, but merely the order in which we thought of the topic. Some of these topics focus on public health and social justice, areas that are not traditionally part of bioethics, but should be.…

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by Barbara Ross Rothweiler, Ph.D., ABPP & Ken Ross

In the coming year, we celebrate the 50th publication anniversary of On Death and Dying, by Elisabeth Kübler Ross M.D. As her children, we are privileged that she is remembered, that we continue to hear her voice in the voices of others, and that we had the opportunity to learn from such a compassionate teacher and example. We appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts about her work and her legacy.

On Death and Dying describes five stages commonly encountered as a person faces his or her own imminent mortality. This came to be known as DABDA: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.…

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by Mark Siegler, MD

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross graduated from the University of Zurich Medical School, did her residency training at several hospitals in New York City, and then did fellowship training in psychiatry at the University of Colorado. On completing fellowship training, she stayed on as a faculty psychiatrist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In 1965, she was recruited to the University of Chicago as an assistant professor of psychiatry. Her first assignment at the University was as Acting Director of the Psychiatric Inpatient Service. One year later, she became Assistant Director of the Psychiatric Consultation and Liaison Service.…

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by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

A commentary in Nature this past week suggested that bioethics may no longer be relevant. The author argues that the pace of technological change is so fast that bioethics can’t keep up: “Bioethics, once a beacon of principled pathways to policy, is increasingly lost, like Simba, in a sea of thundering wildebeest.” The author is Sarah Franklin, a sociologist and director of the Reproduce Sociology Research Group at the University of Cambridge (UK). Her work has focused on the development of assistive reproductive technology. She holds degrees in Women’s Studies (MA), Anthropology (MA), and Cultural Studies (PhD).…

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You can read this editorial and other articles in this month’s issue of The American Journal of Bioethics.

by Tom Beauchamp, Ph.D. & James Childress, Ph.D.

We are pleased to join the editors of AJOB in marking the 40th anniversary of our Principles of Biomedical Ethics (PBE). In this editorial, we will reflect back on the book’s original publication, its development over four decades, some of its major themes, and some persistent misunderstandings. To us the publication of PBE seems like an event that happened yesterday; to the bioethics community it likely seems like a history that stretches back to the beginning of bioethics.…

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