Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, talks about a systematic approach to bioethics.
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The Importance of Bioethics Science is telling us that we can do phenomenal things if we put our minds and our resources to it. I think science is probably the best example of you put resources into something, and you let the creativity and the brilliance of the minds throughout the world, and certainly not only in this country throughout the world – and phenomenally good things can happen. You’ve got to make sure that there’s checks and balances on that, because science can also lead to things that are not so good. There’s a whole ethical issues of manipulating at the genomic level, the whole issues of embryos and creating people to your own fashionable, boutique-liking. All those things you’ve got to be really, really careful of. But science, at its most pure, where you’re looking for discovery and you’re going to use discovery for the betterment of mankind. I think science stands out among some of the most important endeavors that the humankind can pursue. Mankind evolves. There’s no doubt that we have evolved the whole issue of evolving through carious lower species to our own species of the human. But there’s also the continuing evolution that is associated with mankind. And a lot of that is using what specifically and particularly and peculiarly makes you a human being. And that is your intellect and your will. You have a choice. You can analyze things, and you can act in an intellectual manner. And that is, to me, at the very foundation of what science is – how you can better your own lot, the lot of the other citizens of the world, while you’re paying attention to and preserving the world you live in, which is the reason why things like the environment are so important. And we try and analyze are we doing things that are detrimental to the environment. And if so, how do we stop it? And if we have to stop it, how do we replace it with something that’s environmentally friendly? And I think science is going to lead us there. And it’s the good will that you have to try and preserve your own species, as well as preserve the environment, i.e. our planet, so that we can have thousands of more years of people doing good things and leading good lives. Bioethics is a very, very important field. As we get more and more in the arena of understanding science and getting better opportunities, the fact that you can do things with biological sciences that have an impact on a human being means you must have ethical standards. And paramount among these are when you do something that involves a human subject as one example. There are a lot of bioethical issues, but for example, if you’re trying to develop a new drug or a new vaccine, and you need to do experimentation, there has to be some fundamental, immutable principles of ethics that guide what you can and cannot do when you’re dealing with another human being. And there are also fundamental things that you can and cannot do when you’re dealing with the life itself. Is it or is it not ethical to create an embryo, and to create a person for the purpose of getting an organ to give to someone else? Your knee-jerk reaction is absolutely not; but you need the ethical analysis of that to show why and how that is something that you need to stay away from. So I think that bioethics is one of the most important evolving fields that we have. Because, as science gets more and more sophisticated, and as the opportunities for transforming biological sciences occur, we’re going to be faced with more and more important ethical questions. And we can’t approach that by the seat of our pants. We have to have experts, who study that and make that a career of analyzing the kinds of ethical issues and gaining experience so that when people come in, and they’re faced with a question of ethics in the biological sciences, at least you have a cadger of people who pay serious attention to that.