There vast array of biological research going on around the world is throwing up some challenging questions for the whole of society to tackle, not just scientists.
To explore these issues, the Nuffield Council for Bioethics is running Box Office Bioethics, a video competition for young people. School pupils and undergraduates are invited to submit short films about any ethical issues in the biosciences, from dementia to food security.
Some of the events in Biology Week have brought out very different ethical issues, and may give ideas for videos:
One of the Biology Week talks will be by Neuroscientist Dr Ellie Dommett from the Open University who will discuss cognitive enhancers, ‘steroids for the brain’. Here she is talking about ethical issues in neuroscience.
We are running a debate on ‘Do we need pandas? Choosing which species to save’. The issue of which species or habitats are most important is very complex, and you will get lots of ideas from our online discussion about saving the pandas. For example, should we save a species which carries human disease? Here’s a parasite of bumblebees which seems a candidate for a species not to save!
For the launch of Biology Week in the House of Commons, the BBSRC demonstrated the impressive speed of the technology that The Genome Analysis Centre use to sequence DNA. It has now become feasible to sequence human genomes very quickly and relatively cheaply. This raises ethical issues such as:
If we could give you detailed information about diseases you are prone to, would you want to know? Does it give you the chance to change your lifestyle to help avoid these diseases, or lull you into a false sense of security that you are not susceptible to a disease so don’t need to lead a healthy lifestyle to prevent it? Would it just make you worry?
If you had genes which predisposed you to cancer, would you like to screen your embryos to see whether they carry the gene?
Is it appropriate to have different costs for health insurance based on somebody’s DNA?
There is great potential for personalised medicine based on the knowledge of individual people’s genes. Does this increase the gap between the medical treatment offered to the rich and poor?