In a 1993 First Things article, Elizabeth Kristol wrote of the coming problems regarding prenatal genetics.1 Her foresight was confirmed last fall when Dr. Dan Brock of the National Institutes of Health suggested that blind and severely disabled children should be aborted for the good of society.
On November 13th 2002, stem cell researchers convened by the New York Academy of Sciences gathered together to probe what vistas could be opened up by human stem cell biology. It has often been stated that once embryonic stem cells are removed from a blastocyst (an embryo at the 64-200 cell stage) and cultured, these cells cannot form a fetus. While that is true in the purest sense, these embryonic stem cells may be used as "building blocks" to make "transgenic" (or "chimeric") animals.
Recently, the Bush administration planted a flag on ethical high ground by updating the charter of the federal advisory committee that addresses the safety of human research subjects to consider the welfare of human embryos along with that of fetuses, children, and adults.
Why did the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) recently refuse Jayson and Michelle Whitaker permission to create a "designer baby" who could serve as a tissue match for their three-year-old son suffering from a rare blood disorder called Diamond-Blackfan anaemia?
The recent movie Spider-Man has exceeded all expectations, both from a business standpoint and as an entertaining "comic book movie" filled with lots of action, enjoyable humor, and romance. Although not intended to be a profound movie, Spider-Man raises some interesting issues relevant to bioethics-namely, genetic enhancement and the unrestricted pursuit of scientific advancement.
Is there anything wrong with causing someone to be paralyzed, or blind, or deaf? If so, then sit up and take notice.
Art has always played several roles in society, including that of commentator on social events and trends. For example, Jonathan Swift's satires, while entertaining, simultaneously critiqued those in power. Art also plays the role of underscoring what is important in a society or to the artist. The Sistine Chapel demonstrates the awe and wonder that Michelangelo and his society had for God. Today many are still deeply impacted by this masterful work. Art also raises awareness of issues that society might otherwise miss.
Preimplantation genetic screening is the latest assault against a truly human future. According to a report in the 27 February Journal of the American Medical Association, a 30-year-old woman has chosen to use the technique because she carries the rare gene for early onset Alzheimer's disease. This particular variety of Alzheimer's reportedly affects adults by the time they are 40 years of age.
"Designer babies" will be all the rage this Spring. So, apparently, will be historical amnesia. Historical amnesia is a tragic genetic illness. Sadly, it is affecting increasing numbers of people in our culture. As Santayana has famously said, "those who forget the past are destined to repeat it."
When President Bush was faced with the daunting task of deciding whether federal funds would be appropriated for research on human embryonic stem cells, he diligently sought out and considered the views of both proponents and opponents of the controversial research. For assistance in reaching a final decision on the matter, he turned to Dr. Leon Kass, MD, PhD, an esteemed University of Chicago professor who has established himself in the fields of bioethics, medicine, and education.