This Week in Bioethics

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on May 29, 2015

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1. Physician Assisted Suicide on Life Support

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, CBC board member Dr. Aaron Kheriaty chronicles the general public’s wariness toward physician assisted suicide. As he points out that “in the past 20 years, more than 100 campaigns to legalize assisted suicide have been introduced in various states. All but three have failed.” In California, Senate Bill 128 was expected to pass quickly but is now in suspense and will likely fail. This is welcome news for an otherwise grim topic.

UPDATE:California Physician Assisted Suicide Bill Moving To Vote

2. Scottish Parliament Rejects Physician Assisted Suicide

Speaking of physician assisted suicide bills failing, earlier this week the Scottish Parliament voted down a bill that would have allowed the practice. As Alison McInnes, a Scottish Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian, argued, there is no “right to die,” and the passage of such a bill would harm vulnerable persons the most. Hear, hear!

3. Australian State Attorney Generals Push for Surrogacy Reform

The state attorneys general of New South Wales met this week to consider the reform of their international surrogacy laws. Prompted by the now infamous Baby Gammy case, the stated goal is increase the regulation of the practice to prevent fraud and correction. As one attorney general noted, “My fear is children are falling through gaps in the law.” We applaud the concern motivating this regulation, but as a Canadian bioethicist reminded us a few weeks ago, “if something is wrong you don’t regulate it, you prohibit it!”

4. Cambridge Professor Warns of Incest Caused by Sperm and Egg Donation

Professor Susan Golombok, of Cambridge, recently warned that as a result of the practice of sperm and egg donation, “children might enter into sexual relationships with their half siblings and not be aware of it.” She also noted that the chances of this happening are “probably higher than people think.” Golombok is the author of a major, decades-long study into “modern families.” As an expert in our documentary film Anonymous Father’s Day cautions, if these practices exist, they must serve the children created from them first and foremost. It’s difficult to see how the likelihood of such an occurrence is in any way in the best interest of these children. This is just one of many concerns about the messiness of “modern families.”

5. White House Weighs in on Genome Editing

The much discussed, new technique of CRISPR, which allows for gene editing has caused quite the fury in academic journals and the popular press over the past few months. This week the White House weighed in on it, declaring “The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.” As Jennifer Lahl notes, “if we can edit diseased genes out of the genome, what’s to stop us from editing any gene? Under such a scenario, designer embryos move quickly from fiction to fact.” Such a practice should not just be tabled for discussion now—it should never be allowed, period.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by Karyn Christner via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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