February 29, 2024

US writer warns of irrelevance for bioethics

American bioethics will become irrelevant unless it returns to its origins in human rights law, says Boston University Professor George Annas in a new book. He argues that his field has been captured by legal and economic interests and has lost sight of the big picture of global human welfare. As an example, he points to the embryo-centric” views of the Bush Administration in limiting funding for embryonic stem cell research.

American Bioethics: Crossing Human Rights and Health Law Boundaries” returns to the Nuremberg Code, a favourite theme of Professor Annas, who is one of the most widely quoted bioethicists in the US. This made informed consent the cornerstone of bioethics. What we need are bioethicists who question, who think deep thoughts, and who help society work through really pressing problems that could involve the future of the species,” Annas says. “And they can be much more effective using human rights language and human rights instruments and the human rights activist model than they can using either law or economics.”