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Bioethics and Biotechnology - a matter of limit

Bioethics and biotechnology complement each other: bioethics concerns the regulation of what biotechnology helps to manufacture.

By Jorge Forbes
Category: Artigos


Bioethics and biotechnology complement each other: bioethics concerns the regulation of what biotechnology helps to manufacture.  

Bioethics is at the heart of current debates. Abortion, Cloning, Euthanasia, Transgenics, stem cells, are some of the main aspects that provoke new ethical discussions about life. This occurs is due to the development of the biotechnology —  name given to the applications of new technologies on living things.

Biology represents for the 21st century what Physics represented for the twentieth century. Its advances are so great and rapid that it is almost impossible to follow what is happening. "It's as if we wanted to fill a glass of water in the Iguaçu Waterfalls," someone described, figuratively.  

These biotechnological advances coupled with the human anguish of avoiding suffering and death, put in check the ways we were accustomed to deciding right and wrong, can and can not, the desirable and the reprehensible.

Let us take an example that provoked a great ethical debate, referring to something that today is practiced legally and that yesterday was not only forbidden but unthinkable, the so-called "Savior Sibling”. It is about provoking the birth of a child with the primary purpose of making her donate, in this case, the umbilical cord blood that will serve her existing brother to heal from a deadly blood disease. In cord blood are the hematopoietic stem cells to be transplanted. For this to happen, the conception of this child must be in vitro, since the embryo must first be studied, at least in two fundamental aspects: to be compatible with the sick brother and not to be the heir of the same disease.

One of the first times this took place, when it was not yet legalized, it was performed by the American geneticist Mark Hughes, who was convinced to do the questionable procedure, by a father, who, vehemently, told him: "While you scientists are standing around a table thinking about whether or not to help me save my daughter, a lot of couples have children for a variety of reasons, such as improving marriage or securing an inheritance. " Hughes was convinced and carried out the procedure.

This kind of history repeats itself every day in the international centers of genetic research. What is interesting is how the psychoanalyst has much to contribute in this moment. In my view, we are experiencing a crisis of the limit. To this day, much of what we might want to do was not possible because of lack of means. Now it’s otherwise, we are able to do much more than we want. Technology no longer limits us and it advances by itself, indifferent to our needs, a theme widely criticized by Heidegger. Elderly people suffer from the artificial prolongation of their lives; people are monitored by DNA tests taken from the cup of their coffee; foods are changed etc, etc.

In the absence of an external limit that serves as a parameter to our wishes, what can we expect? The most immediate answer is that we will see thousands of ethics committees emerge, regulatory bodies that will try to discipline our lives. Its efficacy is questionable. There will always be those who by personal ambition, curiosity, or sensitized by a human drama, as reported, will take another step, risking to go from drama to tragedy.

It is fundamental, in Terra2, that we deal with this idea of going beyond our preconceived limits. It’s an era that, for the first time, mankind does not respond to external and vertical guiding patterns: be it nature, religion or reason. Society as a whole must "learn" to live in a new paradigm.

                                                                                                            Jorge Forbes