Ethics and the Human Genome
Due May 21 (Just one version —no rewrite)
Length is flexible,
but aim for about 5-7 pages.
You may consult with
your writing fellow, but not required.
- Genomic research and technology is posing hard
new choices that we, as individuals and societies, have never had to make
before. These choices involve the deepest ethical questions that humans
confront. During your lifetime you yourself will likely be required
such choices, or at least express your opinion or vote on them. In order to
make good decisions and to persuade others to your point of view, you will need
to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of your own stand. And as
I’ve said in class, you are more likely to win an argument when you understand
your opponents' stand better than
- You will be voting yea or nay as a legislator, not a private
- Pick one of the following ethical challenges. Each is a proposed
bill on which you must soon vote.
- First you need to hear the strongest arguments both for and against
- Then you must decide how to vote, do so on ethical
defend your it by explaining your reasoning
to colleagues and constituents.
Your paper will resemble a debate:
Present the “Vote Yes” side first, then the “Vote
No” side (regardless of which one you agree with).
Each side should answer the other—that is,
engage the other side’s argument, rather than ignore or talk past it. You
may structure this debate in any whatever way works best, for instance,
all the pro arguments first and then all the con arguments, or as a
back-and-forth between the two.
- You should not make your own
view/vote known until the
end of their “debate."
- Then summarize why you support one side rather than
other. What are the ethical grounds on
which you prefer one over the other?
“Should there be a
law that (pick
right to know."”Requires that biological parents who put
up for adoption provide samples of their own DNA for inclusion in the child’s
Requires that bionic limbs be treated like handguns:
Specifically, they must be registered as lethal weapons; prospective owners
must have a police background check before receiving one; owners must obtain a
license to carry one in a manner that constitutes “concealment” (i.e., when not
obvious to observers that the limb is bionic).
of human dignity act."
physicians and other medical personnel to
actively protect the personal dignity of all patients under their care. That
is, they have a legal obligation—an affirmative duty—to prevent actions and
conditions that would
of research act, Section 2.2."
grow embryos of animal-human chimeras for up to 3 months (comparable to the
first trimester of pregnancy).
use any genomic technology to alter their physical or psychological selves in
any way they choose.
to choose one’s genetic
Allows a woman to
reject any of her embryos or fetuses on the basis of poor genetic quality. For
purposes of this law, fetuses become legal persons when delivery —the
lengthy birthing process
—has been fully completed
Forbids the FBI and other law enforcement agencies
from permanently storing DNA samples, or the results of analyzing them,
obtained from individuals who
have never been convicted of a felony. For purposes of his law,
"permanent" means "after a verdict has been
rendered in the case for which their DNA was collected."
right to genomic privacy."
own genome public without first obtaining written permission from all
first-degree genetic relatives (biological parents, siblings, and children).
from genetic coercion."
any manipulation of a human’s genome without
that individual’s informed consent. The bill is silent on whether fetuses have
a right to be born, but it states that all individuals born have a right to
genetic integrity from moment of conception until such time as they
reach the legal age of consent and can decide for themselves.
(Assume that the
legal age of medical consent in the state is age 16.)
"Sanctity of life patent act."”
Forbids obtaining a
patent, retaining a patent, or otherwise owning the rights to genetic code that
is used to create new life forms capable of moral reflection, self-awareness,
and time travel (e.g., "persons"). [Time travel is the ability to
conceptualize one's existence along a timeline: past, present, and future.]
"Preservation of embodied
the development or use
technology that creates, attempts to create, or sustains forms of human
consciousness that do not reside in a human body (that is, fully human
"minds" that are disconnected from any human body). The term non-human
body includes but is not limited to machines, computers, and non-human
You can send suggestions or general
to me, and I’ll work them up into a potential
Please see the
Formatting Guidelines and Grading
Rubric for further guidance.
- Develops strong, clear, reasoned arguments.
- Is thoughtful, insightful, intellectually
- Writes with focus, clarity, and precision.
- Both your “Vote Yes” and “Vote No” sides are
- Both develop a coherent ethical argument, that is, arguments rooted in more
general principles of belief or action.
- I cannot tell which side you are on until you
- Your decision considers the ethics of the bill from a broad
perspective, for example, the different levels of costs and
benefits (e.g., individual, group, and humankind) and the conflicting
rights and duties (and whose) involved.
- Think hard about the broader principles upon which specific preferences rest. They might
include, but are not limited to: (1) treat individuals as ends, not means, (2)
individuals have a right exercise freedom of conscience except when that harms
others, (3) treat others as you would want them to treat you, (4) protect human
dignity, as you define it, (5) we must respect the deeper laws of God or
nature; and so on. Such principles can help you judge the
coherence of your arguments. This is the "what makes it right"
we discussed earlier in the course.
- Consult with your writing fellow.
- Contact me if you have any questions or want to try out ideas.
Reread this assignment after you have written
your paper. Did you actually address it, fully?