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Quandary

Quandary column

Is It Better Never to Have Been Born?

By Michael Cook

Bioethicists are questioning legal judgements that dismiss “wrongful birth” cases by challenging the belief that it is better to be born than not born.

Michael Cook is editor of the online bioethics news service, BioEdge.

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Eugenics Tackles Climate Change

By Michael Cook

Can a proposal to genetically modify children that are smaller to reduce their carbon footprint be taken seriously?

Michael Cook is editor of the online bioethics news service BioEdge.

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Jagged Little Pill

By Michael Cook

If a morality pill can induce moral behaviour, what could governments do with an “immorality pill” to control its citizens, law enforcers and soldiers?

Michael Cook is editor of the bioethics newsletter BioEdge.

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The Bioethics of Geoengineering

By Michael Cook

Ethical guidelines are urgent when considering high-risk technologies to avert the climate crisis.

Michael Cook is editor of the internet bioethics newsletter BioEdge.

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Is the End Coming for Embryonic Stem Cells?

By Michael Cook

Embryonic stem cell research is looking increasingly like a dead end as clinical trials are cancelled in favour of adult stem cells.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge, an internet newsletter about bioethics.

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A Hard Sell for European Scientists

By Michael Cook

A milestone case in the European Court of Justice sheds light on opposition to human embryo research.

Michael Cook is editor of the internet bioethics newsletter BioEdge.

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America’s Bioethics Shame

By Michael Cook

President Obama’s bioethics commission finds that US experiments in post-war Guatamala turned a blind eye to ethical concerns.

For the past year it has been bioethical bow, scrape and grovel time in Washington DC. After learning that American public health researchers had infected hundreds of Guatemalans with venereal diseases between 1946 and 1948, President Obama had to telephone his Guatemalan counterpart to apologise. He then set up a commission to investigate the appalling story of coercion and deception. A detailed historical report was published on 13 September.

Stem Cell Tourism

By Michael Cook

Can a quick trip overseas for stem cell therapy really cure your diabetes and hair loss?

Google “stem cell cures” and the first entry will be a site that promises a “Breakthrough Treatment For Wide Range Of Medical Reasons”. It is a link to the Stem Cell Rejuvenation Center in Phoenix, Arizona, offering “cutting-edge procedures in adipose stem cell therapy”. In other words, they extract stem cells from your own fat and use them to cure… what exactly? It’s not clear, although a list of dozens of conditions on the home page, from autism to kidney failure to torn ligaments, suggests that miracles are happening every day.

Tabloid Bioethics

By Michael Cook

Tabloid journalism gives bioethical issues the social relevance that academic debates lack.

By the time you read this, the volcanic ash from the eruption of public outrage over phone-hacking in Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids may have dissipated. I am writing this the day after he appeared before a committee of the British Parliament and acknowledged that it was “the most humble day of my life”. The ethics of his tabloid newspapers may have mortally wounded his company.

Stem Cell Battles Are Far From Over

By Michael Cook

Induced pluripotent stem cells are not the ethical breakthrough they were initially thought to be.

In November 2007 a Japanese team led by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University announced that ordinary human skin cells could be reprogrammed to make them pluripotent. He called them induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

The news transformed stem cell biology. Within weeks, leading scientists like James Thompson of the University of Wisconsin, who had first isolated human embryonic stem (hES) cells, and Ian Wilmut, who had created Dolly the cloned sheep, changed tack. They dropped hES cells and began working on the dazzling new cells.