chapter  1
21 Pages

Bioethics as Politics

If recent news reports and science commentaries can be believed, biotechnology will soon profoundly alter our lives. Hardly a week goes by without the announcement of some new biomedical ‘breakthrough’ that will deliver new treatments that will reduce people’s suffering, enhance their physical performance or mental abilities, or increase their lifespan. Stem cell treatments, genetic therapies, and nanotechnologies, along with other innovations, it is claimed, have the potential to ‘revolutionise’ healthcare and deliver signifi cant economic benefi ts in the years ahead. According to many scholars, biotechnology will change our very conceptions of the natural and the normal and unsettle our assumptions about what it means to live a ‘good’, ‘healthy’ life. The rapid development of biotechnologies and the wide range of purported applications have heightened concerns about where technologies are leading and prompted some to ask whether they present dangers that outweigh the benefi ts. Biotechnology, it is contended, poses questions that go beyond the familiar ones of safety and equality of access to innovations to encompass those about the kind of human being and the sort of society that will be created in the future (Kass, 2003: xvi).