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Leon Richard Kass (1939- )

A PhD and medical doctor turned ethicist, Leon Kass calls himself an unlicensed humanist. Throughout his unique career he has sought to impact others and engage important cultural issues. This he has accomplished over the course of many years by studying biochemistry, teaching humanities, writing articles and books on ethics, and serving as chair of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

The US President's Council on Bioethics (2001-2009)

The US President's Council on Bioethics was an organization headquartered in Washington D.C. that was chartered to advise then US President George W. Bush on ethical issues related to biomedical science and technology. In November 2001, US President George W. Bush created the President's Council on Bioethics (PCB). Convened during a nationwide cloning and embryonic stem cell research debate, the Council stated that it worked to address arguments about ethics from many different perspectives.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Legal, Ethics

Thesis: The Hwang Woo-Suk Scandal and the Development of Bioethics in South Korea

In 2004, the South Korean geneticist Woo-Suk Hwang published what was widely regarded as the most important research finding in biotechnology that year. In the prestigious American journal Science, he claimed that he had succeeded in cloning a human blastocyst, which is an embryo in its early developmental stages (Hwang et al. 2004). A year later, in a second Science article, he made the earth-shattering announcement that he had derived eleven embryonic stem cell lines using his cloning technique (Hwang et al. 2005). The international scientific community was stunned.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Ethics, People

"Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells" (2005), by Leon Kass and the President’s Council on Bioethics

Human pluripotent stem cells are valued for their potential to form numerous specialized cells and for their longevity. In the US, where a portion of the population is opposed to destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells, what avenues are open to scientists for obtaining pluripotent cells that do not offend the moral sensibilities of a significant number of citizens?

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics

President George W. Bush's Announcement on Stem Cells, 9 August 2001

On 9 August 2001, US President George W. Bush gave an eleven-minute speech from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on the ethics and fate of federal funding for stem cell research. Bush also announced the creation of a special council to oversee stem cell research. In the speech President Bush acknowledged the importance of issues surrounding stem cell research to many Americans, presented different arguments in favor of and opposing embryonic stem cell research, and explained his decision to limit but not completely eliminate potential federal funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

George W. Bush Executive Order 13455, June 2007

On 20 January 2001, Republican George W. Bush was sworn in as the forty-third president of the United States, replacing Democrat William J. Clinton. During his eight years in office, Bush issued many executive orders, often altering previous policy. By signing Order 13435 on 22 June 2007, he changed how stem cell research would be performed in America.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

"Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary" (1999), by the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission

Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary was published in September 1999 by The US National Bioethics Advisory Commission in response to a national debate about whether or not the US federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research. Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research recommended policy to US President William Clinton's administration, which advocated for federal spending on the use of stem research on stem cells that came from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (2007), by Michael J. Sandel

The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, hereafter referred to as The Case against Perfection, written by Michael J. Sandel, builds on a short essay featured in The Atlantic Monthly magazine in 2004. Three years later, Sandel transformed his article into a book, keeping the same title but expanding upon his personal critique of genetic engineering. The purpose of Sandel's book is to articulate the sources of what he considers to be widespread public unease related to genetic engineering that changes the course of natural development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics

The Singapore Bioethics Advisory Committee

Established in tandem with Singapore's national Biomedical Sciences Initiatives, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was established by the Singapore Cabinet in December 2000 to examine the potential ethical, legal, and social issues arising from Singapore's biomedical research sector, and to recommend policy to Singapore's government.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Legal

Dickey-Wicker Amendment, 1996

The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is an amendment attached to the appropriations bills for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education each year since 1996 restricting the use of federal funds for creating, destroying, or knowingly injuring human embryos. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment began as a rider (another name for an amendment) attached to House Resolution (H.R.) 2880. H.R.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Barack Obama Executive Order 13505, November 2008

On 20 November 2009 Democrat Barack Obama replaced Republican George W. Bush as president of the United States. Obama soon initiated changes to Bush's 2001 executive order concerning scientific research involving human stem cells. Stem cell research remains a controversial issue in the US. Some individuals consider it immoral to experiment with an embryo because they regard embryos as human beings from the moment of conception, while others believe stem cell research could lead to great scientific advancements.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Barry Morris Goldwater (1909–1998)

Barry Morris Goldwater was a Republican Arizona Senator and US presidential candidate in the twentieth-century whose policies supported the women's reproductive rights movement. Goldwater, a businessman and Air Force reservist, transitioned into politics in the 1950s. He helped align popular support for a conservative Republican Party in the 1960s. Throughout his life, he worked to maintain personal liberty and to limit governmental intrusion into citizens' private lives. Goldwater, influenced by his wife Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater, supported women's rights to abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Legal, Religion

South Korea's Bioethics and Biosafety Act (2005)

The South Korean government passed the Bioethics and Biosafety Act, known henceforth as the Bioethics Act, in 2003 and it took effect in 2005. South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare proposed the law to the South Korean National Assembly to allow the progress of biotechnology and life sciences research in South Korea while protecting human research subjects with practices such as informed consent. The Bioethics Act establishes a National Bioethics Committee in Seoul, South Korea.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Boys from Brazil (1978)

The Boys from Brazil is a science fiction film based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin about an underground neo-Nazi society in South America trying to clone Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Nazi Germany during World War II, to restore the Nazi movement. The film was directed by Franklin Schaffner and released in 1978 by 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, California. The Boys from Brazil is a film that was one of the first films to depict cloning, and to discuss the ethical implications of genetic engineering, cloning, and eugenics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Bonbrest v. Kotz [Brief] (1946)

This influential opinion was copied throughout the United States allowing civil actions and wrongful death claims on behalf of children who suffered injuries while a viable fetus. The case essentially overruled the opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton (1884). However, the ability to sue was usually limited in two ways: the fetus had to be viable, and a child had to be born alive to have a claim. These two restrictions have recently been removed in many jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Paretta v. Medical Offices for Human Reproduction [Brief] (2003)

The court decided a child of in vitro fertilization born with cystic fibrosis does not have the right to sue for wrongful life even in the presence of demonstrable acts of medical negligence because to allow such a case would grant the IVF child rights not possessed by naturally born children. The decision in Paretta has not been publicly tested in other jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

J.B. v. M.B. [Brief] (2001)

In a dispute over frozen embryos during a divorce case, the court decided the wife's fundamental right to not procreate mandated destruction of the pre-embryos in light of the husband's continuing ability to procreate with a different partner. The court also said embryo disposition agreements used by in vitro fertilization clinics were generally enforceable subject to either spouse's right to change his or her mind prior to use of the pre-embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Jeter v. Mayo Clinic Arizona [Brief] (2005)

In Arizona, statutes that protect persons, such as the wrongful death statute, will not be interpreted by the courts to grant personhood status to frozen embryos. The legislature may grant such protection in the statute if it chooses to do so by explicitly defining the word person to include frozen embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Kass v. Kass [Brief] (1998)

In a case of first impression in the state of New York, the highest state court decided that a priori written agreement between progenitors of frozen embryos regarding the disposition of their "pre-zygotes" in the event of divorce is binding. By copying the general result arrived at by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Davis v. Davis in 1992, the New York court magnified the weight of authority in favor of upholding prior written agreements for in vitro fertilization practices.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton [Brief] (1884)

This influential opinion by famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was copied by courts throughout the United States. For over sixty years, courts refused to recognize a cause of action on behalf of a child who died before or after birth as a result of injuries suffered in the womb because the fetus was considered legally a part of its mother and thus did not possess personhood. This policy changed after the decision in Bonbrest v. Kotz in 1946.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Ethics of Designer Babies

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept. However, the rapid advancement of technology before and after the turn of the twenty-first century makes designer babies an increasingly real possibility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Reproduction

Leonard Colebrook’s Use of Sulfonamides as a Treatment for Puerperal Fever (1935–1937)

Between 1935 and 1937, Leonard Colebrook showed that sulfonamides, a class of antibacterial drugs, worked as an effective treatment for puerperal fever. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterus of women after giving birth. At the time of Colebrook’s study, puerperal fever remained a common disease due to both the lack of hygienic practices in hospitals and a treatment for the disease. After successfully using Prontosil, a sulfanilamide, to cure a patient who was going to die from puerperal fever, Colebrook began experiments with the drug.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Gattaca (1997)

Gattaca is a 1997 science fiction film produced in the US that depicts a future society that uses reproductive technology and genetic engineering in order to produce genetically enhanced human beings. By selectively choosing certain genes, scientists and physicians ensure that individuals born using reproductive technologies have desirable physical and psychological traits and prevent undesirable traits.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Limitations in Abortion Legislation: A Comparative Study" (2007), by Orli Lotan

Written by Orli Lotan on behalf of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Center for Research and Information, "Limitations in Abortion Legislation: A Comparative Study" (hereafter abbreviated "Legislation") examines abortion legislation in Israel, the US, Canada, and a number of European countries. The study also acknowledges the medical, moral, ethical, and religious implications of abortion and the impact of such legislation on society in each country.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Reproduction

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