We also had the annual Member’s meeting, where our new President, the bioethicist for Planned Parenthood and NASA, Paul Root Wolpe,Ph.D., gave his first official speech. Unfortunately, this speech (like many talks this week) was full of political and ethical bias. I’m not sure how to take the President wondering why there are so few members from the right, immediately following a tacky, political remark about the motives and tactics of the right.
One of the most interesting and concerning sessions today covered the pros and cons of chimeras of humans and other animals, using human embryonic stem cells in “nonhuman primate blastocysts and embryos.” My biggest concern is the risk of infectious diseases that result from the mix, but there is the ethical problem of creating feeling creatures that share DNA and possibly some physical or mental characteristics of humans. The latter is slim within the near future, but it’s just a matter of time if science fiction and human history proves true. I am not afraid of new sub-humans so much as I of the old subhumans who currently exploit, enslave and hurt humans and who, history teaches us, would do the same to the new creatures that might be created. I was glad to hear a question from the floor that was similar to mine.
We also heard a “Work in Progress” discussion about planning for pandemics or limited epidemics, similar to that in Canada, where about 170 people had SARS. The particular point of the researchers is how to compensate/reward those who must be “constrained” or quarantined because of their disease or exposure to the disease, in order to control the spread. A novel way of looking at each of us and all of us as “embedded” in an ecology of microorganisms was used to demonstrate that we may be vectors of disease as well as victims. I did like the point that the presenter made that it is important to discuss these scenarios not just as though other people will get sick, but to remember that we might, too. We need to call on the personal: how would we want to be treated?
At the end of the day, about 10 bioethics bloggers and would-be bloggers sat down to talk about what we are doing and the impact we hope to have. The consensus is that we bloggers are the cutting edge of information about bioethics and science. Watch this page!