Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama's Bioethics: Where's the Discourse?

Science and ethics are inextricably linked, and it is sometimes unclear whether science can be considered friend or foe. Despite a history riddled with examples of destruction at the hands of scientific ingenuity (the atomic bomb) or simple moral disregard through experimentation (various instances of horrific studies involving human subjects), science today seems to generally fall within the “friend” classification. Battle cries of “cure cancer” and “vaccinate against HIV” greet the valiant scientist in shining armor, as he/she rides off to the laboratory. Yet, both the condemnation of scientific missteps of the past and the extolment of scientific virtue today illustrate the fact that conversations regarding science and ethics are all too often consumed with extremes. There is a paucity of discourse in the middle ground.

The oversimplification that scientific research is either obviously detrimental or obviously beneficial to humanity is completely inappropriate in the context of today’s biomedical landscape – a landscape rife with ethical nuances and controversial topics like embryonic stem cells, the ownership of genes, and genetic screenings. While there may be consensus that current goals in biomedical research are noble, there is dissent regarding how to achieve those goals. What is ethical to one person may very well be unethical to another. Thus, we as a society must be more cognizant of bioethical considerations. We must live and breathe in the middle ground, that pesky “grey area” between right and wrong. So, how to begin the discussion?

Read it all here.

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