April 16, 2024

Another Hollywood bioethics lesson

The bioethics angle in Cloud Atlas.

“Surely this is one of the most ambitious films ever made,” says critic Roger Ebert.  And A.O. Scott, of the New York Times writes, “This is by no means the best movie of the year, but it may be the most movie you can get for the price of a single ticket.” Well, Cloud Atlas certainly has something to do with bioethics, but its scope is so ambitious that it is diminished considerably if we said it is about bioethics.

Of the six stories narrated by the film, the most directly relevant to bioethics is the fifth. In it a genetically engineered clone, Sonmi-451, played by Korean actress Doona Bae, leads a revolt of her servant class against the “pure-bloods” and the corporations. Normally we assume that genetic engineering will be used to enhance human potential. What if it were used to make us sub-human? We invite your comments. 

Michael Cook
Creative commons
genetic engineering