Saturday, October 15, 2011

Politics of Biotechnology

Bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, of the University of Pennsylvania, has just published another book, The Body Politic, about "biopolitics" and the cultural, political and societal underpinnings of biotechnology. He is one of the most prominent commentators on bioethics in the US.

He recognizes the challenge of being in teh establishment while trying to maintain integrity as a researcher. 

In a recent interview in The Atlantic, Moreno said, "I see the task for academic bioethicists as inherently a critical one, as in but not of the establishment. But we also have a responsibility to explain the rationale for a particular treatment or study when we think it's justified, even if the explanation doesn't fit on a bumper sticker. I don't know that there's any way to avoid this dilemma but as long as we have critics on both sides I'd say we're doing our job."

As part of a promotional interview, Dr Moreno was asked to nominate organisations and individuals for a "bioethics hall of fame". His selection gives outsiders an insight into main currents in American bioethics thinking:

Organisations: "The two pioneering bioethics organizations were The Hastings Center, a free-standing think tank in New York that was founded in 1969, and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, which started in 1972... At the risk of sounding self-serving I'd add the University of Pennsylvania."

Individuals: "Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, is a political philosopher who chairs President Obama's bioethics commission; my new colleague Zeke Emanuel is a philosopher and physician who worked on health care reform in the White House; and my old friend Art Caplan is easily the most visible person in the field."


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