Virtual Issue on Genetics

This special online issue of the Hastings Center Report brings together disparate discussions of the ethical issues posed by genetic science. In early issues of the Report, in the 1970s, discussions of genetics often sought partly just imply to identify and organize the issues- and to argue, in effect, that this was a topic that bioethics should address. Since then, the discussion has turned to more narrowly drawn issues. In this issue, for example, a set of six essays addresses the prospect that genetic information will lead to an era of “personalized medicine, ” with implications not only for medical treatment but also for cost of care, biobanking, privacy, and access to information, among other things. In the lead article, legal scholar Mark Rothstein considers whether health policy should address genetic information separately from other kinds of medical information, and in an editorial on Rothstein founded in the column titled Another Voice, British philosopher Neil Manson explains why treating genetic information separately seems so attractive. A special supplement to this issue, by Hastings scholar Erik Parens, explores the ramifications of behavioral genetics, and other items branch off in still other directions, including (genuinely going afield here) into the prospect that genetic and other sciences might allow human beings to transcend the human condition. The items selected for this issue emphasize more recent scholarship and commentary, but were otherwise chosen precisely to capture as much as possible of the range of material that has appeared in the Report on this topic.

Click here to read the virtual issue.


‘I now pronounce you man and wives’: Canada and polygamy

Mohamed Osman, 2010

A court in British Columbia is currently deciding whether Canada’s anti-polygamy laws are unconstitutional. ( Those in favour of the legalisation of polygamy suggest that by not allowing it, Canada is failing in its duty to guarantee the freedom of religion for its citizens (there is a large Mormon community in Canada). If polygamy is legalised, then Canada will become the first developed country to allow it.

82% of Canadians oppose legalising polygamy, but this is not due to sheer disgust for alternative lifestyles. The opponents argue that polygamy harms women and that the men who are ‘leftover’ will be unable to secure a wife for themselves. Interestingly, the debate has not focussed on the more fundamental issue of how far the state should be able to intervene in determining how adults arrange their lives. Furthermore, the lawyers are Continue reading “‘I now pronounce you man and wives’: Canada and polygamy”

Interview: What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?

We recently interviewed Fritz Allhoff, co-author (along with Patrick Lin and nanoscientist Daniel Moore) of What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?: From Science to Ethics. Fritz talks about his motivations for writing, and the unique approach of the book.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write What Is Nanotechnology…?

Fritz Allhoff: Back in 2004, my colleague Patrick (Pat) Lin and I started, a non-partisan group that provided a forum for social and ethical implications of nanotechnology. Our previous work had been in applied ethics—particularly the ethics of emerging technologies—and nanotechnology was beginning to draw a lot of attention. We got funding from the US National Science Foundation for some of our work, and this monograph emerged from that grant.

PE: What makes this area interesting to you? Continue reading “Interview: What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?”