The actual and promised capabilities of biotechnology have given prominence to a possible new end of medicine, "enhancement." Almost every present-day commentator underscores the difficulties, impossibility, or futility of any definition that seeks to distinguish enhancement from therapy.1 Nonetheless, everyone eventually ends up using the term since no viable substitute has yet appeared. In short, no boundary between morally valid and invalid uses of biotechnology can be established without at least a working definition.
We have by now become accustomed to having national bodies appointed to examine public policy questions raised by our increasing biotechnological powers, and we have become equally accustomed to reading reports issued by such bodies. But what would we say about a report that is more than 300 pages long, that is in large part an extended philosophical discussion, and that offers no policy recommendations whatsoever?
If the nineteenth century was the age of the machine and the twentieth century the information age, this century is, by most accounts, the age of biotechnology. In this biotech century we may witness the invention of cures for genetically linked diseases, including Alzheimer's, cancer, and a host of maladies that cause tremendous human suffering. We may see amazing developments in food production with genetically modified foods that actually carry therapeutic drugs inside them. Bioterrorism and high-tech weaponry may also be in our future.
Traducido por: Alejandro Field
Though the controversies surrounding human cloning and stem cell research have recently captured the public's attention, the less well-known technologies of cybernetics and nanotechnology are equally worthy of focus in that they have the potential to transform the way we think about human beings. Unfortunately, our conceptions of cybernetics have largely been formed by Hollywood and have thus been dismissed as mere science fiction, while most of us have heard little to nothing about nanotechnology.
Editor's note: The following commentary is based on articles originally appearing in The Seattle Times, the BBC, and The Times. These articles were posted on the Center's web site on October 17, 2002 under the news heading "New Technique Lets Parents Pick Baby's Gender."
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.
Scurrying past the partitions of the traditional laboratory maze, a wired rat's winding steps last month represented for behavioral neuroscience a quantum leap and for bioethics a venture into brave new territory.
"Whatever in connection with my professional practice or not in connection with it I may see or hear in the lives of my patients which ought not to be spoken abroad, I will not divulge, reckoning that all such should be kept secret."