2014-2015

THE GENETIC SELF: QUESTIONING THE ROLE OF
GENETICS IN MODERN SOCIETY

Whether it’s the manipulation of embryos, being able to own your DNA, or bringing species back from extinction, the genetic self  plays a role before, during, and after life. The genetic self presents the medical world with complex ethical issues and dilemmas that have been explored by 6 bioethics scholars over the past 8 months with the Hastings Center. Emerging technologies such as gene patenting and whole genome sequencing allow for opportunities for growth and innovation, but to what extent should humans explore and manipulates the genetic self?
Meet the 2014-2015 Scholars

SELECTION OF THE BEST POSSIBLE CHILD: SHOULD RELATIVE MORALS AND OPINIONS DETERMINE THE NEXT GENERATION?

Description:  In 2002, a deaf lesbian couple selected the embryo of a deaf child over others, sparking debate on whether the decision was in the best interests of the child. Through the use of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) people have more choice in the genetic characteristics of the embryos implanted, which are screened through the use of PGD. Since this is now possible, is it right to choose an embryo, knowing that the child will have a disability? Is it right to choose to not have a child just because he or she would have a certain disease or disability? Would your opinion change if the disease was fatal or nonfatal (asthma or dyslexia)? Even though parents now have this option, do you think this is something that everyone should be obligated to do? This project will focus on the Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PB), a term created by Julian Savulescu, and the ethics of a “moral obligation” in relation to nonfatal diseases such as asthma and dyslexia versus situations where the condition causes a significantly diminished quality of life such as in the case of Huntington’s disease (HD) and muscular dystrophy (MD).
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GENES ON SALE! COMMERCIALIZATION AND THE ETHICS OF GENE PATENTING

Description:  How would you feel knowing that a research company owns your genes? Does owning genes commercialize the human body? Is it right to put a price on the human body? In the last few years, a common practice known as gene patenting has been given prominent attention in the medical world, especially after a company called Myriad Genetics tried to patent or “own” the breast cancer genes. While regular patents do encourage innovation and gives credit to the owner of the patent, we must still evaluate the limits of patenting. Should the Supreme Court allow for companies to patent genes? In terms of fairness and power, is it ethical to patent the human body?
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DE-EXTINCTION: WHEN SPECIES ARE BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD

Description:  While dinosaurs may not be reappearing in the near future, the implications of the 1993 film Jurassic Park, a movie where dinosaurs roamed modern day Earth, may not be that far-fetched; scientists are closer to creating living and breathing clones of extinct species, dubbing the process “de-extinction”. While de-extinction is bound to be quite the scientific innovation, what is the point? Should we do it because humans have a moral obligation to bring back the species that they made extinct?  Should we do it because bringing back these species can have potential environmental or human benefits? Should we do it just because we can?   This project will explore these questions through multiple ethical lenses including environmental risks and benefits, “The Wow Factor”, humankind’s moral obligation towards extinct animals, bio-objectification, and animal rights.  It will also discuss The Lazarus Project as a case study to highlight the importance of ethical examination.
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PREIMPLANTATION GENETIC DIAGNOSIS: THE ROLE OF THE DOCTOR DURING THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS

Description:  What information should doctors be allowed to give their patients? There are many rules that restrict doctors from sharing their personal opinions through dialogue, body language, and tone of voice.  However, patients may expect a doctor to share their recommendations, since they are believed to be experts in their field of study.  Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which allows doctors to identify certain diseases and disabilities in embryos, can lead to situations that can cause added stress for both the doctor and the patient.  In addition to the doctor, society may have a tremendous influence on the decision that parents make.  Although it is ultimately the parent’s decision regarding which embryo is implanted, the opinion of people who will be involved throughout the child’s life will have an effect on their choice of embryo.
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YOURS, MINE AND OURS: THE CO-OWNERSHIP OF GENETIC INFORMATION BETWEEN BIOLOGICAL PARENT AND CHILD

Description:  Should your genetic information belong to you? Parents, is it your duty to provide your genetic information to your children in their medical interest? Children, do you have an ethical claim on your parents’ genetic information? What would you do with your parents’ genetic information? As we seek to answer these questions, we explore what parents owe to their children and ultimately ask: In a world where privacy is constantly decreasing, should parents have the right to keep their genetic risks private? How will society change if the most basic unit of heredity is no longer private?
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MITOCHONDRIAL REPLACEMENT THERAPY: IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END?

Description: How much value should and do humans place on being natural? In today’s increasingly technological world humans now more than ever have the ability to transform the world and themselves through various medical procedures, but to what extent should this occur? With Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy, a controversial new form of assisted reproductive technology, women with mutated mitochondrial DNA will be able to have a biological child without the threat of mitochondrial diseases. While the benefits of this procedure are clear, there could be serious ramifications on what humans regard as natural. Is it unethical to deny women the freedom to have biological children by not legalizing this procedure? Or do the potential effects on human nature and the physical nature of the human body outweigh the ethical justification of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy regarding women’s desires to reproduce? These considerations will lead to a conclusion regarding the ethics of the legalization of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy based on the value of nature.
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