domingo, 2 de diciembre de 2018

BioEdge: ‘Ah, look at all the lonely people’

BioEdge: ‘Ah, look at all the lonely people’


‘Ah, look at all the lonely people’
Loneliness is a serious, if unrecognised, public health problem. And not just psychological health. Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes that it is as toxic as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness can literally kill. Murthy has described it as an “epidemic”.
According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation with The Economist, more than 20% of adults in the UK and the US and 9% in Japan  report that they often or always feel lonely or isolated.
With this in mind, bioethicist Craig Klugman, of DePaul University, asks whether we need a “bioethics of loneliness”.
It’s a complex issue, because loneliness is, in some cases, a result of past choices and dealing with it might mean sacrificing the individualism characteristic of many Western countries. With respect to women, for instance, Klugman notes that “With more opportunities for financial independence and self support, women may be choosing to live alone, marry later, and have smaller families. Thus combatting a perceived epidemic in loneliness might actually result in reinstating restrictive social mores that repress women and reduce their choices.”
Klugman concludes:
I suggest that a bioethics of loneliness would take an interdisciplinary approach to examining what questions one should be asking, and to determining whether the change represents an exercise in autonomy or is in fact causing real harm. The fact that older measures of engagement are not met, does not mean that social engagement is at risk. We should not simply accept the headlines but rather should take a critical eye to analyzing the data, examine the change in technologies and how people interact, and then offer an informed, ethical perspective on our brave new world.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Many scientists were aghast this week when a Chinese expert in CRISPR, He Jiankui, announced the birth of gene-edited twins – probably the world’s first “designer babies”.

Dr He is being described as a “rogue scientist” who ignored the rules. But that is the way that whole field of reproductive technology has advanced. Bob Edwards, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing IVF, never sought ethics approvals or worried about the safety of the children.

In fact, he was an unashamed eugenicist. As Edwards said in 1999: “Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children.” Edwards did not even seem to worry about the higher rate of birth defects among IVF children. They were just collateral damage of the “clinical imperative”.

Yet now Bob Edwards is regarded as a hero -- because his risky experiment worked.

I think that it is a bit unfair to label Dr He as a rogue. In fact, his robe-tearing, scandalised colleagues agree that editing the human genome is ethical. They are just worried that he did not tick all the boxes and do all the paperwork. This is very bad public relations for them and for the Chinese government.

In fact, given the deteriorating place of human rights in China at the moment, He Jiankui will be lucky to escape a long prison term -- or even execution – to regild the government’s tarnished image as a watchdog of uber-ethical science.

Michael Cook
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