Beyond Bioethics: A Proposal for Modernizing the Regulation of Human Biotechnologies
Published on: November 20, 2006
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  • PEG

    I understand that no work can survive in this media-frenzied world without a catchy title, but “Beyond Bioethics” is misleading (hopefully). Suggesting a new analysis of an ethical problem is not moving “beyond” it. It is simply addressing it differently.

    That’s the thing with moral debates: you can never move “beyond” them. You can only move from one side to the other (and all the gray areas inbetween).

  • The title “Beyond Bioethics” is not meant to downplay the importance of ethical issues, but rather to suggest we need rules now with real enforcement power. The entire field of bioethics was created back in the 1970s at least in part to relieve pressure on the scientific community for overt regulation; they could point to toothless bioethics committess and say that they were taking account of ethical issues, without having to face real limits on research. We are saying that the time for this is past; that we need to proceed under socially agreed upon rules that ensure that future research respects the dominant ethical concerns of the broader democratic community.

  • Ben

    Something tells me that this kind of approach will not resolve these questions. Thorny moral issues don’t get resolved in any particular political period for all time without an on-going and ever-evolving public discussion and thinking about such issues. If the stem-cell and abortion debate should teach us anything, it would be that these issues are not resolved so readily.

    A participatory approach that engages bioethicists, researchers, regulators, policy thinkers, public officials, and the general public would be a much better way of leaving that discussion open to on-going argument and engagement rather than perpetual finagling for power by opposing actors who forever prefer to strong-arm one another rather than engage the substantive concerns of those who raise them.

    At some point, it seems to me, that we should hope that such questions get resolved by better arguments rather than by better organizing by one advocacy group in one political period over the organizing and strong-arming of another advocacy group, until a future period offers them the opportunity to turn the tables.

    Those who believe that better arguments matter should place our strongest hopes with the arguments and not on regulatory regimes that are the play-things of pressure groups who engage in the power-battles as a means of doing the one thing they all need to do most: to listen to those who disagree with them and engage them on the questions at hand.

    Better arguments really do matter, no matter how cynical we become about that fact, and no matter how cynically activists engage the politics over important policy questions.

  • BarkErannaLet

    There was this guy see.
    He wasn’t very bright and he reached his adult life without ever having learned “the facts”.
    Somehow, it gets to be his wedding day.
    While he is walking down the isle, his father tugs his sleeve and says,

    “Son, when you get to the hotel room…Call me”

    Hours later he gets to the hotel room with his beautiful blushing bride and he calls his father,

    “Dad, we are the hotel, what do I do?”

    “O.K. Son, listen up, take off your clothes and get in the bed, then she should take off her clothes and get in the bed, if not help her. Then either way, ah, call me”

    A few moments later…

    “Dad we took off our clothes and we are in the bed, what do I do?”

    O.K. Son, listen up. Move real close to her and she should move real close to you, and then… Ah, call me.”

    A few moments later…

    “DAD! WE TOOK OFF OUR CLOTHES, GOT IN THE BED AND MOVED REAL CLOSE, WHAT DO I DO???”

    “O.K. Son, Listen up, this is the most important part. Stick the long part of your body into the place where she goes to the bathroom.”

    A few moments later…

    “Dad, I’ve got my foot in the toilet, what do I do?”

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