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Gene technology ethics

For example, the Warnock committee's recommendations for embryo experiments hinged on biological theories of development. Another factor making the primitive streak a good cut-off was the fact that it also marked the last point where an embryo could divide to form identical twins, which McLaren believed made it hard for opponents to frame the stages beforehand as a potential individual. Taking the broadly utilitarian view that embryo experiments were vital to understanding development and treating childhood diseases, the majority of the committee agreed to adopt fourteen days as the limit for research.

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Writing in the first edition of Bioethics , she asserted that:. Up to the [primitive streak] it is difficult to think of the embryo as an individual, because it might still become two individuals.

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None of the criteria that apply to me, or Tom or Dick or Harry, and distinguish us from the others, are satisfied by the embryo at this early stage. The collection of cells, though loosely strung together, is hardly yet one thing, nor is it several … But from the fourteenth or fifteenth day onwards, there is no doubt that it is Tom or Dick or Harry that is developing.

History thus helps us appreciate how ethics is not derived from abstract philosophical principles, but is produced by a dynamic engagement between scientific theories, moral frameworks such as utilitarianism, and the rhetoric of individuals like Warnock. There are promising signs that such collaboration is increasing. As this burgeoning collaboration demonstrates, integrating history into bioethics does not mean compromising historical methodologies or abandoning earlier critiques of bioethics.

Rather, it involves making them available as an intellectual resource.

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Historians should not be discouraged by claims that history is the subjective interpretation of the author. Theirs is not the only discipline whose methods and objectivity have been questioned in this fashion.

Ethical implications of gene technology

As long as we have confidence in their professional integrity, there is no reason why disagreement between historians need be any more troubling than between scientists, sociologists or philosophers. Indeed, Hayden White claims that pluralist views of history need not distance the field from ethics. It helps to link these positions to social contexts, and allows us to ascertain their origins and pertinence. In doing so, history lends an important perspective on resistance to innovations. But history does more than just complement other approaches in the empirical turn.

It brings its own specific benefits and promises to expand the focus of bioethics. Many historians are well placed to comment on debates regarding proposed reforms of the National Health Service, which currently lack any discussion of what impacts previous changes had on patient care. As John Pickstone notes, when hardly anyone remembers what the NHS was like in , let alone , and when debate is marred by obvious sectional interests, history is vital for restoring narrative, balance and a consideration of motives and their effects.

I am grateful to Nathan Emmerich and Professor John Pickstone for providing useful references and advice, and to Joe Cummings for allowing me to reproduce his picture of Mary Warnock. The research on which this article is based was funded by a Wellcome Trust grant in the History of Medicine, and I thank the Trust for their continued support.


His work investigates the British history of tissue culture, the history of bioethics, and debates about animal behaviour in the 19th and 20th centuries. In The Encyclopedia of Bioethics. Reich, ed. New York: Macmillan: xv-xxii, on xix. It was first coined by the biochemist Van Rensselaer Potter, who used it to describe an ethics derived from biomedicine.

Months later, Andre Helleger and Sarget Shriver used it in its now more familiar sense — i. See A Jonsen. The Birth of Bioethics. Hastings Cent Rep ; 12 no. Observing Bioethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. In Encyclopedia of Bioethics. New York: Macmillan: — Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Moral Experts. Analysis ; — Perspect Biol Med ; —, p. Turner, K. Orfali and C. Bosk, ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1—12, p. Weisz, ed. Amsterdam: Kluwer: —, on p. For a dismissal of these critiques, see S.

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Ethics ; — Daedalus ; 47—69, p. Bioethics ; —; J. How Sociology can save Bioethics … Maybe. Sociol Health Ill ; —96; R. The Contributions of Sociology to Medical Ethics. Hastings Cent Rep ; 7—11; A. Daedalus ; 69—99; R. Why Bioethics Needs Sociology. Subedi, eds. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall: — Theoretical, Empirical and Substantive Considerations. Bioethics ; 89— Borry, P. The Birth of the Empirical Turn in Bioethics.

Bioethics ; 49— Biosocieties ; 2: —; J. London: Free Press: 1—2. See also A.

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Hastings Cent Rep ; 8, no. Hastings Cent Rep ; 7, no. Behavior Modification in Total Institutions. Hastings Cent Rep ; 5, no.

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The Resistable Rise of Medical Ethics. Soc Hist Med ; 8: —, p. Daedalus ; 27—46, pp. The Ethical Body. In Medicine in the Twentieth Century. Pickstone, eds. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic: —, p. How Medicine Saved the Life of Ethics. Perspect Biol Med ; — Bioethics in America: Origins and Cultural Politics.

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