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Should Science Be Regulated?




Fukuyama states that “countries must regulate…technology… [to]…discriminate between… technolog[y]…that “promote[s] human flourishing, and those that pose a threat to human dignity and well-being” (460).  Our nation “failed to understand that a…new potential for destruction had been created” with the atomic bomb (459); we decimated thousands of human lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thus, careful deliberation and scrutiny must occur in the process of scientific regulation.  However, conflicting conceptions in various research projects such as in vetro fertilization, stem cell research, and eugenics makes for challenging legislation.

Louise Brown, in 1978, was the first child born from in vetro fertilization (IVF)—in which multiple fertilized embryos are transferred from a petri dish into a woman’s uterus.  A procedure that was experimental, but gave hope to couples that could not conceive a child (Rosenberg).  The transferring of multiple embryos into a woman’s uterus, however, raised questions because of the risk of multiple pregnancies that could result in medical complications, such as infantile death (“New Study Finds”).  Still, there are no regulations regarding how many embryos can be transferred into a woman’s uterus; there are only guidelines (New).  Because IVF is costly, many women (and doctors) choose to administer multiple embryos into the uterus so that the probability of conception is greater.  Heuy referenced Dr. Keith Barrington’s 2007 study in which he proposed that only one embryo be administered IVF to reduce the risk of multiple births causing infantile death (“New Study Finds”), and since July 2010, Quebec’s fertility centers have adopted Barrington’s method, and thus far “twin gestation rates have dropped from 30% to 3.8%” (Huey). 

Stem cell research holds great potential to treat human diseases, yet their derivation and use raise ethical, social, and legal concerns (“Guidelines for Human”).  In the past, the Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research, in Canada, “had no laws to govern it, nor were there guidelines for researchers, research ethics boards, or funding agencies on how stem cells may be derived and used” (“Guidelines for Human”).  Because of the concerns, the federal government legislated an “Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction and Related Research” in 2004 which applies to the derivation of human embryonic and human induced stem cell research (“Guidelines for Human”).  Researchers, Beeson and Lippman, indicate in their essay that the ardent pursuit in egg harvesting for stem cell research, in which young women are donating and selling their ova for clinical purposes, such as fertility clinics, and non-clinical purposes, such as in experimental cloning studies, are being exploited by these industries for commercialization and is placing women’s health at risk for hyperstimulation syndrome (overstimulation of ovaries) which has been suggested in studies as a link to ovarian cancer (1).  “Biotechnology may have great potential for advancing healing, but in the context of inadequate regulation…, it threatens to convert the bodies of women into instruments for use…” (Beeson and Lippman 8).

In Regulating Eugenics, the Harvard Law Review quoted Francis Galton’s definition of eugenics: “[Eugenics is] the science of improving stock… [and]…especially in the case of man, [it is a method] to give…more suitable races…a better chance of prevailing…over the less suitable [races]” (1579).  Motivated by racism and subjugation, compulsory sterilization laws were enacted in 1907, and by 1956 most states still had this law (“Regulating Eugenics” 1580).  Today, however, “liberal eugenics,” which advocates genetic modification of humans, include the “screening for genes that cause serious disabilities…to genetically engineering smarter children,” (1582) has both proponents and opponents with conflicting conceptions as to whether liberal eugenics should be regulated.  Proponents argue that liberal eugenics respects “traditional liberal values” such as individualism and egalitarianism (1582), but opponents argue that there is poor understanding to this type of technology and that any indiscriminate activity with the human genome could be catastrophic (1584).

Proposed regulation, as Intemann and de Melo-Martin explained, should be value-based meaning that decisions regarding research priorities and methodologies and what regulations to legislate “should not be made solely by scientific or epistemic criteria” (656) or by politicians (658).  The reason for this is that most “scientists are not trained in ethics… [and]…will often have self-interested reasons” and “politicians often have…politically motivated agendas” (657-8).   

More deliberations need to take place to regulate science relating to human safety, ethics, and social values, but the process is complex with numerous conflicting conceptions.  Nevertheless, we must carefully discriminate between new technology for human benefit and ones that threaten humankind, and legislate accordingly. 

Works Cited
Beeson, Diane and Abby Lippman.  “Egg Harvesting for Stem Cell Research: Medical Risks
            and Ethical Problems.”  RBM Online  13:[Unassigned Issue]  (2006): 1-11.  Web.
25 July 2013.    
 “Guidelines for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research.”  Canadian Institutes of Health
            Research.  Canada.gc.ca, 7 June 2005.  Web.  25 July 2013.
Huey, Brigid.  “New Study Finds Stronger Regulations of In Vitro Fertilization May Save
Lives.”  Université de Montréal: UdeMNouvelles, 18 April 2011.  Web. 25 July
2013.
Intemann, Kristen K. and Inmaculanda de Melo-Martin.  “Regulating Scientific Research:
            Should Scientists Be Left Alone?”  The FASEB Journal  22:3 (2008): 654-58.  Web.
            20 July 2013. 
New, Jennifer.  “Should In Vitro Fertilization Be Regulated?”  Divine Caroline.  Web.  25
            July 2013. 
“Regulating Eugenics.”  Harvard Law Review 121:6 (2008): 1578-1599.  Web. 25 July 2013.
Rosenberg, Jennifer.  “First Test-Tube Baby: Louise Brown.”  About.com, n.d.  Web.  25 July
            2013.  
Photograph from: http://www.slideshare.net/MrRyanSIS/natural-sciences-2012-13-14443920

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