The American Society of Bioethics and Humanities meeting is different from the medical and political meetings I’m used to. From what I can tell, the people who attend expect to participate in the Question and Answer period. They are actually more critical than doctors are at our meetings. And they don’t necessarily ask questions. Sometimes they just give other viewpoints. I think I like it.
I attended one session consisting of members of one of the subgroups of the International Society of Stem Cell Researchers’ Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. I was surprised to hear old fallacies repeated: ESC’s are immortal, Alzheimer’s will be treated, “SCNT” is not cloning and appears to be the most promising line of research, etc. Unfortunately, the focus was not the actual morality of ESC research, but on the regulation and sharing of material and results.
Another session concerned “Biopolitics,” a phrase coined by Michelle Foucalt to mean the possibility of science and medicine to become totalitarian tools of government. (See this post for another view) However, I believe that Professor Foucalt needs to thank Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, along with many other Science Fiction authors who have explored the theme for nearly a hundred years. “Who owns your body?” One presenter discussed the effects of screening for spina bifida in the UK’s government medicine when the only “treatment” was/is abortion. “Good parents will screen, good citizens will abort or recommend abortion.”
If you’re concerned about the assumptions of science and medicine in public policy, go to my website, LifeEthics, read my Mission and Vision and consider following the recommendations on becoming involved in bioethics, science and medicine as public policy. At the very least, take a look at the wider implications of bioethics – they go far beyond abortion and euthanasia. Let me know what you think!