This Week in Bioethics

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on February 12, 2016

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1. Physician Assisted Suicide Fails to Gain Traction in Colorado

After a bill to legalize physician assisted suicide was voted down by a Colorado House Committee and received only tepid support from the Senate Committee, the bill’s champion Roland Halpern of Compassion & Choices, a group dedicated to promoting physician assisted suicide, was forced to admit that it was highly unlikely that the bill would advance any further. For those of us that care about the integrity of the medical profession, we consider this a victory.

2. Assisted Suicide Poses Threat to Mentally Ill Patients

A new study in JAMA Psychiatry offers further proof that physician assisted suicide limits the help, support, and treatment that would benefit mentally ill patients. In the Netherlands, researchers found that in “more than half of approved cases, people declined treatment that could have helped, and that many cited loneliness as an important reason for wanting to die.” Such findings should raise serious questions for advocates of physician assisted suicide who claim that the practice is only for the terminally ill. Once the floodgates are open, limits are hard to impose.

3. Top U.S. Intelligence Official Calls Gene Editing a WMD Threat

James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, included gene editing on his list of “weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.” The report went on to add that “Given the broad distribution, low cost, and accelerated pace of development of this dual-use technology, its deliberate or unintentional misuse might lead to far-reaching economic and national security implications.” Considering that some scientists in Britain are forging ahead with such measures, it’s heartening to hear top U.S. officials warning against it.

4. New Poll: Americans Say No to Gene Editing and Designer Babies

A new poll conducted by STAT News and Harvard University found that sixty-five percent of Americans agree that gene editing to reduce genetic diseases should be illegal. An even higher number, eighty-three percent, opposed gene editing for the purposes of improving “intelligence or physical characteristics.” In an era where there seems to be no end to what some people will do to have the children they desire, it’s heartening to see that a solid majority of Americans recognize that there are limits that should be respected.

5. Surrogate Mother Fighting for Custody of Children

Melissa Cook, the California surrogate we alerted you to in January who was fighting against the demand that she abort one of the triplets she is carrying, is now fighting for custody and suing Los Angeles County officials claiming that California’s surrogacy laws reduce her to a “breeding animal or incubator,” and promote the “commodification of children.” We applaud Melissa’s efforts to fight back against an enterprise that exploits women and her desire to protect the children who are created from this practice.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by electricnude via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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