Dignitas Article

Biotechnology Meets Primetime TV

It is no secret that bioethical content has been the fodder for both film and television for quite some time. The mainstay of science fiction films for years has ranged from cyborgs (Bicentennial Man) and artificial intelligence (AI, I Robot) to bizarre human experimentation and research (The X-Files: I Want to Believe), such as genetic enhancement (GATTACA), organ farming (The Island), and cloning (The 6th Day) just to name a few more. Even the occasional drama has featured key bioethical dilemmas such as euthanasia (Million Dollar Baby) and just access to healthcare services (John Q) to the recent film depiction of savior siblings (My Sister’s Keeper).[1] The silver screen has accessed these issues for years. Similar ventures in primetime television have met varied success. Medical dramas have highlighted key issues raised in clinical medicine. Pick your show of choice: ER, Grey’s Anatomy, House, Private Practice,[2] or any of the numerous other medical dramas that have reigned in primetime television for years. The success of the medical drama is demonstrated through the proliferation of spinoffs and the creation of the genre of medical comedies as epitomized in Scrubs. Amidst the daytime plotlines of hypersexuality and human frailty, primetime viewers are exposed to such issues as informed consent, medical error, and the nature of the Hippocratic Oath. Not surprisingly these connections have been noted by savvy educators who use culture as one of the means by which they teach bioethics.

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136

Nip & Tuck: A Parable

Cosmetic surgery for many elicits an unbidden, irresistible reaction of repugnance. The growing reality of nose jobs, breast and pectoral implants, buttock lifts, and liposuctions – it appalls and disturbs. In a different context, Leon Kass popularized the notion of the ‘wisdom of repugnance.’ This negative response or ‘yuck factor’ is a strong intuition that something is wrong or morally amiss. Folks who worry about Botox rituals discern the stink of ethical death in the cultural air. Their repugnance is an ethical gatekeeper, a barometer of all things pernicious to genuine human flourishing: This far you can go, and no further.

It is worth asking, however, whether this custodial ethical wisdom has anything going for it. To many the issue seems simple enough – we do not need the nuance of philosophers to realize that cosmetic surgery goes against the grain of what nature and her God have granted us. Few will chastise parents who warn their children against the surgical woes of the recently deceased pop star Michael Jackson. This seems obviously wrong. Likewise, the antics of a Jocelyn Wildenstein can be easily dismissed, her face a shocking specter of multiple surgeries. Yes, something has obviously gone awry.

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126

Cord Blood Stem Cells: An Overview

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Natural Law & Reformed Bioethics: Another Look

Sex, without babies? Behold the origin of our conundrums in reproductive ethics! Our culture developed the technology to separate the sexual act from procreation, classically with the extramarital use of the Pill (in the sexual revolution), and thus was unleashed a host of problems that have plagued us ever since. So the argument goes.[1] We would have no reproductive ethical dilemmas had we kept together the sexual act and procreation.

Podcast Episode: 
119

Beyond Perfectionism

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With the Olympics soundly behind us and the rhythms of the fall launch of new television episodes well established, several reflections come to mind. An interesting thread below all of the accomplishments of the  elite athletes during the Beijing Olympics were concerns over doping of various sorts. Artificial enhancements, steroids, hormones. These are not new issues surrounding the elite athletic competitions of our day, but they increasingly are becoming difficult to evaluate.

Podcast Episode: 
102

Is there an American Market in Transplant Organs: Allegations of Commodities, Proprietary Interests, and the Mob?

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Have Pharmaceutical Marketing, Patients, and Medical Practice Developed too Cozy of an Alliance?

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CBHD: Celebrating 15 Years

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Genetically Enhancing Athletes?

Readers of both the academic and popular literature in bioethics will be well aware that genetic and other forms of so-called human enhancement are clearly on the drawing board. No one knows how long it will take to develop these technologies, but they are most certainly coming. Already, of course, through the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, human embryos are screened for undesirable genetic traits and embryos with those traits are not transferred to a woman’s uterus—they are discarded or used in embryo-destructive research.

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67

A Fresh Look at Health

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