Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues emerging from advances in biology and medicine. Bioethics blends issues concerning ethical questions that come from a multitude of areas, from life science to biotechnology, medicine, medical ethics, politics, law, and philosophy. It is a rather young academic field that has emerged rapidly as questions about basic human values such as the rights to life and health, and the rightness or wrongness of certain developments in healthcare institutions, such as life technology, medicine, the health professions and about society’s responsibility for the life and health of its members. The notion of bioethics is commonly understood as a generic term for three main sub-disciplines: medical ethics, animal ethics, and environmental ethics. Each sub-discipline has its own particular area of bioethics, but there is a significant overlap of many issues, ethical approaches, concepts, and moral considerations. This makes it difficult to examine and to easily solve vital moral problems. Such as cloning, gene editing, and the moral status of animals and the environment.
It is commonly said that the origin of the notion of bioethics gained traction from the publishing of two influential articles; “Potter’s “Bioethics, the Science of Survival” (1970), which suggests viewing bioethics as a global movement in order to foster concern for the environment and ethics, and Callahan’s “Bioethics as a Discipline” (1973), in which he argues for the establishment of a new academic discipline, and discussions between Shriver and Hellegers about the need for an institute in which researchers should examine and analyze medical dilemmas by appealing to moral philosophy (1970). This institute was created in 1971 as the Joseph and Rose Kennedy Center for the Study of Human Reproduction and Bioethics, and is now known as the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. However, this oft-repeated story about the origin of the term bioethics is incorrect. Sass (2007) is right in claiming that the German theologian Fritz Jahr published three articles in 1927, 1928, and 1934 using the German term “Bio-Ethik” (which translates as “Bio-Ethics”) and forcefully argued, both for the establishment of a new academic discipline, and for the practice of a new, more civilized, ethical approach to issues concerning human beings and the environment. Jahr famously proclaimed his bioethical imperative: “Respect every living being, in principle, as an end in itself and treat it accordingly wherever it is possible,”
The editing of embryos would result in this genetic edits being passed down to future generations. In philosophy, eugenics refers to the social movement that believes on the possibility of creating the best human society and race by promoting the reproduction of populations with positive or desirable traits while controlling and prohibiting the reproduction of populations with negative or undesirable traits, which leads me into one of the hottest genetic technologies at the forefront of genetics called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a tool that can alter the DNA in our cells. The procedure involves clipping out bad genes in an organism’s cells or inserting better ones. But there are said to be quite a few risks involved with this procedure. Specific genes that may increase the likelihood of one disease can protect you against other illnesses, meaning that the removal of certain genes does not eliminate all chances of getting a disease. Also gene editing could also lead to other mistakes, such as cutting parts of the wrong gene and causing further health damages. This dilemma involves bioethics as to; where to draw the line with gene editing. If editing out genetic defects to cure disease becomes the norm, the question arises, do we then allow genetic editing for aesthetic or for non-illness related reasons as well? Should we allow parents to have the opportunity to choose what color hair or eyes their baby will have? Or how tall or muscular he or she will be? Overtime as CRISPR becomes more reliable and structured, it might allow for parents to craft their child to the tiniest of details, and make what they call a “designer baby.”
Recall that editing of embryos would result in this genetic edits being passed down to future generations. By promoting the reproduction of populations with positive or desirable traits while controlling and prohibiting the reproduction of populations with negative or undesirable traits. This leads me into my next bioethical issue of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are organisms that have been transplanted with a gene or a DNA sequence of interest from another organism. This process is somewhat similar to the process of eugenics wherein an organism with the best traits is produced. However, unlike eugenics, the process of creating GMOs requires works on the genetic level and is usually done in crops and animals. While the production and use and creation of genetically modified organism are still new, with its long-term impacts on health are still yet to be seen, bioethical issues about it are the same with cloning, stem cell research, and eugenics. The pesticide treadmill describes a problem that consistently occurs in agriculture. It goes like this: Eventually, insects evolve resistance to an insecticide, so the farmer starts using more sprays or something more toxic. But this can kill all the critters in the fields — not just the pests, but also the predators that eat the pests. Then the problem gets much worse. As time passes the farmer becomes more and more dependent on chemicals as the only means of pest control, using larger amounts, or more severe poisons, and getting less benefit
- Gordon, J. S. Bioethics. Retrieved from https://www.iep.utm.edu/bioethic/#H2
- McDaniel, L. What is Bioethics? Retrieved from https://www.bioethics.msu.edu/what-is-bioethics
- Colvin, T. CRISPR Technology. Retrieved from http://www.cbc-network.org/issues/faking-life/crispr-technology/