Abstracts from presentations at "Sixth World Congress of Bioethics"
The new human genetic technologies present a threshold challenge
for humanity. If used properly they hold great promise for treating
disease and alleviating suffering. If abused they could open
the door to a powerful new eugenics that would objectify human
life and undermine the foundations of human society. The rapid
development of these technologies has created a civil society
deficit. Neither policy makers nor mass publics have had time
to fully understand the ethical, social and political stakes
and to consider appropriate responses. There are few broadly-based
popular institutions seeking to articulate and argue for human
genetics policies based on human rights, social justice and
global inclusion. In recent years advocates of a new eugenic
future for humanity have become increasingly vocal and explicit.
It is imperative that concerned leaders and others repudiate
this vision. Bans on the most dangerous eugenic technologies,
and regulation of other technologies to prevent abuse, need
not impede potentially beneficial medical research and applications.
The minimal core policies needed to protect our common human
future include national and global bans on reproductive human
cloning, national and global bans on inheritable genetic modification,
and effective, accountable regulation of all other human genetic
technologies. There is broad support for such policies: over
thirty countries have already banned human cloning and/or inheritable
genetic modification, the United Nations is negotiating a global
ban on human reproductive cloning, and several countries have
established comprehensive regulatory regimes. There is no reason
that people of different nations, cultures, religions and philosophies
cannot work together in support of the policies needed to protect
our common human future. There is no greater challenge before
Naming and Challenging the New Techno-Eugenic
Richard Hayes, Executive Director
Center for Genetics and Society
The rapid development of new human genetic technologies has
created a profound civil society deficit. Neither policy makers
nor mass publics have had time to fully understand the ethical,
social and political stakes. There are few broadly-based popular
institutions seeking to articulate and argue for human genetics
policies based on human rights, social justice and global inclusion.
In recent years advocates of a new eugenic future for humanity
have moved to exploit this vacuum. They speak with enthusiasm
of a "post-human" future in which the health, appearance,
personality, cognitive ability, sensory capacity and life-span
of our children have all been genetically modified. They celebrate
a world in which humanity has been genetically engineered into
sub-species, the "GenRich" and the "Naturals."
This new techno-eugenic vision is an integral element of an
emerging socio-political ideology, one that differs from conservative
ideologies in its antipathy towards religion and traditional
social values, from left-progressive ideologies in its rejection
of egalitarian values and social welfare as a public purpose,
and from Green ideologies in its enthusiastic advocacy of a
technologically reconfigured and transformed natural world.
It embraces commitments to science and technology as autonomous
endeavors properly exempt from social control, to the priority
of market outcomes, and to a political philosophy grounded in
social Darwinism. It is imperative that concerned leaders and
others understand the challenge that this new ideology represents
and prepare ourselves to counter it by affirming humanity in
all its beauty, mystery and wonder.
Internation Policies on Species-Altering Interventions
Rosario Isasi, JD, MPH
Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Program on Genomics and Global
Health, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, Canada
Species - altering interventions, such as human cloning and
inheritable genetic alterations, represent an assault on human
dignity and universal human rights, and are also in contradiction
with the goals of a democratic society. Policymakers around
the world have expressed concerns about the use of these technologies,
but only a few have enacted bans on these proposed experimental
interventions, while others have assumed that existing laws
apply to these techniques. Because of the fact that varying
national laws will not be able to control the practice of species
- altering interventions in other jurisdictions, or even deter
the development of countries as safe harbors, there is a call
for the adoption of an international treaty prohibiting cloning
and inheritable alterations in order to preserve the human species.
This presentation analyzes the current status of international
policies on species-altering interventions, including the Universal
Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights - the first
global instrument addressing the legal and ethical human rights
implications of human genetic technologies -, and the Council
of Europe "Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine."
The German-French Initiative to Ban Human Reproductive
First Secretary, Taskforce on Environmental and Biopolitical
Federal Foreign Office, Germany
The speed with which advances are being made in the field of
biotechnology and gene technology has reached a level scarcely
deemed possible not long ago. Almost every day researchers report
new insights into the secret of life itself. More than any scientific
discovery in the past, these developments raise issues central
to our understanding of human life and existence, posing new
challenges both for policy-makers and society at large.
The stated intention of certain researchers and laboratories
to attempt the reproductive cloning of human beings underlines
how crucial it is for the international community to develop
an effective response to this challenge.
Therfore, Germany and France launched a joint initiative in
the United Nations General Assembly to draw up an international
convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings.
Under its resolution 56/93 of 12 December 2001, co-sponsored
by 50 states, an Ad Hoc Committee was established to consider
the elaboration of such a convention. The first meeting of the
Committee took place in New York from 25 February to 1 March
2002, the second from 23 to 27 September.
This presentation gives a short overview over the intentions
of this initiatives, its supporters, the challenges of a "maximalist"
approach (including a ban on therapeutic cloning) and a personal
evaluation of the perspectives of this initiative.
Cloning, Genetic Engineering, and the Rights
of the Child
Evelyne Shuster, PhD.
Adjunct Associate Professor of Philosophy in Psychiatry, University
Human Rights and Medical Ethics Program, Veterans Affairs Medical
The prospect of human replication cloning and inheritable genetic
manipulation (germline genetic engineering) involves fundamental
changes in human reproduction, which threaten to destroy the
core value of human rights and human dignity. For example, human
replication cloning robs the child of his or her rights to personal
identity, individuality and uniqueness. It commodifies both
women and children by treating women as instrumental to someone
else's end, and children as interchangeable products. And it
inevitably leads to "designer" babies made "sur
mesure" to fit specific characteristics that science dictates.
Moreover, because human genetic manipulation may never be proven
safe for children, putting them at unpredictable and irreversible
risks of harm it constitutes unethical and unlawful human experimentation.
This presentation highlights the profound philosophical implications
of inheritable genetic manipulation for all humans and outlines
how it undermines the basic human rights of children as articulated
in the International Convention of the Rights of the Child.
It concludes by showing why a treaty banning human cloning and
inheritable genetic alteration is needed to protect children.