PHL260/CBMS807 Bioethics and Biotechnology
1. Explain and evaluate the ‘life in the shadow’ argument against human reproductive cloning. What are its strong points? What are its weak points? Do you ultimately agree or disagree with the argument? Explain and fully defend your position with arguments. 2. Read the following and answer the question below: Successes in applying somatic gene therapy to primates afflicted with Parkinson’s disease offers hope that a treatment might also be on the horizon for other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington disease. But while somatic therapy might be helpful in restoring partial or even full functioning to an affected individual, it does not solve the problem of the condition being passed on to future generations. Yet, this devastating disease could be controlled, and possibly eradicated, through germ-cell genetic therapy. GeneSolutions, a Vancouver based commercial laboratory specializing in gene therapy, has succeeded in producing a vector (a modified adenovirus) that is able to go directly to chromosome 4 and reduce the number of CAG repeats associated with the disease (>38) to the normal compliment (<30). However, this therapy is designed for germ-cell treatment, either by pre-implantation (e.g., modification of cells in an early embryo) or by modifying sperm or ovum prior to IVF. GeneSolutions is confident that they have addressed all quality and safety concerns, and that they have a therapy that can help affected families plan for a future free of Huntington disease. Adapted from <http://genethics.ca/somatictherapy.html>
Question: Given its significant potential benefits, on what grounds might someone oppose the use of germ-cell therapy for this and other purposes? Explain their position, and evaluate it. Do you agree that somatic cell therapies are always to be preferred over germ-cell ones? Defend your answers.
3. By reference to the argument from ‘procreative beneficence’, explain the position that we have a moral obligation to use genetic enhancement technology to produce the best possible children we can. Evaluate that argument: do you agree/disagree? Provide reasons to defend your evaluation, and respond to at least one objection to it. 4. Some argue that there is something special and ‘exceptional’ about human genetic material that means that it should not be commercialised in any way. Fully explain that argument and evaluate it: do you agree/disagree? Why? Given reasons to defend your evaluation fully.
5. Explain and critically evaluate the argument that agricultural biotechnology is a ‘technological fix’. In doing so, explain the supposed problem of technological fixes with reference to at least one example, one philosophical argument, and one practical argument. Explain clearly whether you agree or disagree that these uses of biotechnology are technological fixes in a problematic way, and your reasons for forming that view.