Bioethics, as it developed into a full-fledged discipline in the 1960s, focused attention on moral questions related to the design of medical experiments. An ethical experiment above all respects an individual’s integrity and right to make fully informed decisions about whether to participate in the research.
Several government agencies, including the US National Institutes of Health, established bioethics committees and offices dedicated to the protection of human research subjects. Institutional Review Boards comprised of scientists as well as lay people became common at hospitals and research institutions across the country and in other nations.
Today, the subjects that bioethicists and the public think about include the introduction of technology in reproductive biology, genetic testing and genetic privacy, and policies governing care at the end of life. The tradition of bioethics, which dates to the Hippocratic Oath, has a lot to say about how to consider these new questions, offering each of us some guidance as we contemplate complex ethical and policy issues.
Here, the Genome News Network highlights primary sources available on the Web and links to academic centers and organizations that are exploring the possible consequences—both good and bad—of recent and future advances in technology.
This guide is a work in progress. GNN will add new information as it becomes available. In addition, we welcome comments and suggestions from readers.
— Barbara J. Culliton
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