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Viewing by month: October 2011
October 24, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Donor gamete regulation is an ongoing topic in the United States. What's so special about gametes that causes us to be concerned about their commodification? Commodification itself is not a bad thing. In free societies, supply-and-demand relationships precisely determine prices.

Should a woman be allowed to sell her ova in the same manner as she might sell other services related to her body, such as modeling or in the performing arts? Are there differences between an egg and the collection of cells and tissues that comprise her physical form?

The real issues do not relate to commodification, but rather concern protecting both buyers and sellers. We should also be worried about the interests of children, and the impact on our society of a market which explicitly places a higher price on “whiteness”, “tallness”, “Ivy League–ness”, and so on. If commodification is not an issue, why set a limit on prices?

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

October 19, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Long ago, in embryology class, we learned about remarkable cells that were totipotent. These embryonic cells had the amazing ability to develop into any other type of cell and also, given the right conditions, to develop into an entire organism. In 1998 researchers announced they had isolated human embryonic cells and the arcane terms totipotent and pluripotent became firmly implanted in the public consciousness. The new ability to isolate and culture these cells launched a brand-new field of biomedicine — stem cell research.

The new field has engendered great hope for the potential development of treatments for deadly genetic diseases and severe chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, and diabetes. The new field has also created bitter controversies that have raged between supporters and opponents of embryonic stem cell research.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

October 19, 2011 | Posted By Ricki Lewis, PhD

Montreal, Oct. 11, 2011 -- James Watson joined a panel of “genome pioneers” at the opening session of the 12th International Congress of Human Genetics today. He was invited, besides his fame, because he was the second person to have his genome sequenced (Craig Venter was first), but his comments revealed that perhaps his most telling qualification is that he has a son who has schizophrenia. Known for his controversial views, Dr. Watson did not disappoint. 

Here are a few of Dr. Watson’s comments, highly edited but context maintained, and remarks that might offend omitted. (Kevin Davies, author of “The $1,000 Genome,” moderated.)

WHY DID YOU DO IT? “I thought, why not? I had no objection, with the exception of not wanting to know ApoE4. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s in her 90s, and the fact that I was in my 70s and didn’t have it didn’t reassure me I wouldn’t in my 90s.” (ApoE4 and the surrounding DNA were deleted from Watson’s published genome sequence. People with two copies of a variant of this gene have a 15-fold increased risk of Alzheimer’s and people with one copy have a 3-fold increased risk.)

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

 

October 17, 2011 | Posted By Michael Brannigan, PhD

Georgia Holland, a volunteer from Christ Church United Methodist of Troy, and Miriam Santiago, who lives in a trailer home on First Avenue, carry away debris from the home from the flooding of Tropical Storm Irene. Sept. 3, 2011. (Brian Nearing/Times Union)

Shinichi Hashiura and his wife, Toyoko, were inseparable. They were working alongside each other in their barbershop-salon when Japan's 3/11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami flattened their village, crushing Toyoko as she tried to aid an elderly neighbor.

Just as his wife often hairdressed for the aged in their homes, the Daily Yomiuri reports that 62-year-old Hashiura now gives free haircuts to countless occupants in shelters throughout the blistered region.

Calamity is a cruel teacher. It offers an invaluable lesson in these fractured times -- the meaning and importance of community. Yet today we cheapen the term, using "community" loosely, applying it to groups, organizations and collectivities as in academic community, online community and business community.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

October 3, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Reproductive cloning has the potential to provide great happiness to many people around the world. When available, this newest assisted reproductive technology will enable infertile couples to have children to whom they are genetically related. RC will also be of significant benefit to many other couples and individuals. Those interested in reproductive cloning include many couples who do not have problems related to fertility.

Of course, none of this technology is available as yet. These are very early days regarding cloning research. It’s important to have wide-ranging discussions of the ethical concerns and implications of reproductive cloning well in advance of the development of the techniques themselves.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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