This Week in Bioethics

by Jennifer Lahl and Matthew Eppinette on July 29, 2016

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1. This Needs to be Read and Shared as Widely as Possible

California oncologist and hematologist Dr. Philip Dreisbach writes in the Wall Street Journal as clearly and urgently as I have seen about the perils of physician assisted suicide. He begins by highlighting some of the problems specific to California’s recently enacted assisted suicide law — which he and five other physicians have sued to try and block — and then turns to address larger issues with the very notion of physician assisted suicide.   

Killing is never medical care. There is no circumstance when any compassionate, competent physician would prescribe a deadly drug to any patient. If “medical practice” has any meaning, it definitely does not include using drugs to willfully kill a patient or for a physician and pharmacist to supply a lethal drug so that a patient can kill himself.

Sadly, this excellent piece appears to be locked behind a paywall. Wall Street Journal, please make this freely available to everyone!

2. Debate over “Family Balancing” by IVF in Australia

If you need any evidence on just how low the fertility industry will go, simply read this story on the debate around gender selection IVF taking place in Australia. “IVF clinics have made submissions to the review arguing for families that already have at least two children of the same sex to be able to choose the sex of the third.” While many countries frown upon gender selection for “family balancing” (the euphemistic term for wanting to select the sex of your child, just because), they often allow sex selection IVF for couples who carry lethal genetic diseases. Of course, both are fraught with ethical problems. Meanwhile, this is all legal in the U.S., which is why, as the story states, many come here in order to “balance” their families. New modern families and brave new worlds.

3. Dolly’s Sisters Seem to be Doing Swell

Our good friend Wesley Smith has alerted us to some cloning news. Apparently, Dolly the sheep has four ‘sisters’ — considered Dolly’s sisters since they were “derived from the same batch of cells as Dolly.” These sheep have just turned 9 years old. News reports indicate that they are healthy, even in their old age. A nine year old sheep is the equivalent of a 70 year old human. You may recall that some of the issues with Dolly were that she suffered from premature aging-related health issues, and needed to be euthanized. The fact that these sheep appear healthy and normal is seen as progress for the cloning researchers. Cloning research has always been embroiled in heated ethical debates, and we imagine with this news of “progress” we will be hearing more about the ethics of human cloning. Our statement on human cloning can be read here.

4. Public Concern about Faking Life

A number of outlets are reporting this week on a new survey that reveals a wariness among American adults toward biotechnologies that can be used for enhancement (rather than for therapeutic or restorative) purposes. There are three main takeaways from the survey, and on Wednesday we weighed in on them. In short, the survey reveals an opportunity to enlarge societal discussions of biotechnology, a call for science to be more attentive to ethics, and a confirmation of the influence of religion in people’s ethical views. Click through to read our full take on the survey.

5. Full, Complete, Objective Information on Zika and the Olympic Games

In June we highlighted 150 scientists, physicians, and bioethicists calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider moving or postponing the upcoming Olympic Games because of how much we simply do not know about the Zika virus, which is epidemic in Brazil. That call was not heeded. Art Caplan, who led the call, and his colleague Kelly Folkers have in response created a thorough guide so that those considering participating in or attending the Olympics can “make that choice based on full, complete, objective information, not just about Zika but about the health situation” in Brazil. This is a sensible and truly helpful response to the WHO’s failure to act (ahem, follow the $$). Caplan and Folkers are to be applauded for their efforts. And anyone considering visiting Brazil should take a careful look at their work.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image “5” by squidish via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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