Ethical Issues

The modern advances of biotechnology create numerous ethical issues. Care should be taken in directly relating the therapy type and the ethical issue: it is an easy extrapolation for those without technical training to extrapolate that all biological products have the same range of ethical issues that actually only affect some of these therapies.

For example, the recent cloning of sheep (Roslin Therapeutics, Scotland) and mice (University of Hawaii) force the consideration of cloning of humans. On the one hand, much of this technology can also be used for genetic screening of fetuses with an inherited disease. On the other hand, the same techniques can probably be used to provide parents with a deliberate choice of the sex of their next baby. This is one example that is typical in this field: there is an ethical continuum, without absolute limits or lines of demarcation. Science is likely always to be ahead of the lay public and politicians in creating these dilemmas in the absence of agreed guidelines or consensus.

However, it should be clear that it is the ethical dilemma that is the central difficulty, and that there are analogies in the pregenetic engineering era of medicine. Consider, for example, the parents of a child who needs a kidney transplant, and who find themselves without any suitable living donor. Without any modern technology at all, they may choose to have another baby with the hope or intention that the new child can become the suitable donor. In this case, tissue proliferation ex vivo and implantation seems to be a simpler ethical situation than parents having offspring by entirely ordinary means. Consensus guidelines are needed: but in our opinion they must remain flexible in order to deal with technological innovation that is not going to stop, and they must also be consistent with guidelines that have wide acceptance in other areas of medicine.

mation relating to the regulations of drugs and biologies and the current regulatory issues.

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