The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

October 19, 2004



“Ideas matter, and sometimes they can be dangerous.”


“With this simple conviction, Foreign Policy asked eight leading thinkers to issue an early warning on the ideas that will be most destructive in the coming years. A few of these ideas have long and sometimes bloody pedigrees. Others are embryonic, nourished by breakthroughs in science and technology….”



by Francis Fukuyama



“For the last several decades, a strange liberation movement has grown within the developed world. Its crusaders aim much higher than civil rights campaigners, feminists, or gay-rights advocates. They want nothing less than to liberate the human race from its biological constraints. As ‘transhumanists’ see it, humans must wrest their biological destiny from evolution’s blind process of random variation and adaptation and move to the next stage as a species.


“It is tempting to dismiss transhumanists as some sort of odd cult, nothing more than science fiction taken too seriously: Witness their over-the-top Web sites and recent press releases (‘Cyborg Thinkers to Address Humanity’s Future,’ proclaims one). The plans of some transhumanists to freeze themselves cryogenically in hopes of being revived in a future age seem only to confirm the movement’s place on the intellectual fringe.


“But is the fundamental tenet of transhumanism—that we will someday use biotechnology to make ourselves stronger, smarter, less prone to violence, and longer-lived—really so outlandish? Transhumanism of a sort is implicit in much of the research agenda of contemporary biomedicine. The new procedures and technologies emerging from research laboratories and hospitals—whether mood-altering drugs, substances to boost muscle mass or selectively erase memory, prenatal genetic screening, or gene therapy—can as easily be used to ‘enhance’ the species as to ease or ameliorate illness….”


Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University.  He is the author of several books, including Our Posthuman Future:  Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (2002).


Foreign Policy – September/October 2004


The essays discussing the other seven Most Dangerous Ideas [“War on Evil,” “Undermining Free Will,” “Business as Usual at the U.N.,” “Spreading Democracy,” Religious Intolerance,” “Free Money,” and “Hating America”] can be found at



Please forward this e-mail to anyone who might be interested in staying abreast of the rapidly changing developments in biotechnology and in the related area of bioethics.  For more information on The Humanitas Project, contact Michael Poore, Executive Director, at 931-528-2408 or .  Or visit The Humanitas Project web site at



Ethics 101:  Dealing with conflicts of interest…


Group Seeks Limits on Drug-financed Doctors



“Doctors who receive drug company funding would be limited in what they could teach other physicians under new rules being proposed by accreditors.


“The Chicago-based Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, which gives its stamp of approval for such classes, was to announce sweeping changes Tuesday to limit the influence of doctors with financial connections to the pharmaceutical industry.


“The nation’s 750,000 physicians stay up to date on medical advances through mandatory participation in thousands of continuing education activities per year.


“In the past, a doctor teaching such a course would disclose his or her financial relationship with any drug company, say as a paid member of the company’s speakers’ bureau or a grant recipient. Once that was out in the open, the physician might then talk glowingly about anecdotal experience with that company’s drug.


“Now, a third party with no ties to the drug company would have to tell the doctor what kind of recommendations he or she could make. Anecdotal observations would be replaced by results of systematic clinical trials. Any review of journal literature would have to include negative, as well as positive, studies….” Press – September 28, 2004


The seven member organizations of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education did approve the “2004 Updated ACCME Standards for Commercial Support: Standards to Ensure the Independence of CME Activities.”  The updated standards are available at the ACCME web site.


The advent of individualized medicine…


Gene Test Offers Hope for Brain Cancer Patients


Genetic screening identifies who will benefit from drug



“A simple genetic test can identify which patients with deadly brain tumors will be helped by a treatment hailed as the first significant advance against the disease in decades, scientists said Wednesday.


“A study by Swiss doctors, presented Wednesday at a conference in Geneva, found 46 percent of patients with the right genetic profile were alive after two years if they got the drug, temozolomide, as well as radiotherapy. The chance of survival among patients with the wrong genetic signature was only 14 percent — not much better than with radiotherapy alone.


“Experts say the test could avoid raising false hopes in those patients with the deadly tumors, known as glioblastomas, who would get no benefit, freeing doctors to try other approaches. The finding is another step in the quest for individual tailoring of cancer treatment, they say….” Associated Press – September 29, 2004


“…will look nearly identical to the original…”


Cloned Kitties Star at New York Cat Show


Copy cats steal the limelight at annual two-day event



“A brave ‘mew’ world came to Madison Square Garden on Saturday [Oct. 9] as a pair of frisky feline clones stole the limelight at New York’s annual two-day cat show.


“Making 10-minute appearances on the half-hour, Tabouleh and Baba Ganoush, produced by the California-based firm Genetics Savings & Clone, seemed normal by any measure—frolicsome, curious and cute, all but oblivious to gawking onlookers.


“Despite the presence of hundreds of other cats,  from American Bobtails and Bombays to the leopard-like Ocecats, startled-looking Korats or the ubiquitous Persians, the clones swiped center stage.


“Previous cat shows, sponsored by the Cat Fanciers’ Association, have been dominated by the stubby-legged Munchkins or the Sphynx, a hairless breed that seems to either fascinate or repel cat lovers everywhere.


$50,000 price tag


“The pair of Bengals are only the second and third-ever cloned cats, although company CEO Lou Hawthorne said his company has also produced Peaches, an 8-1/2-week-old clone, and would boast a total kitty clone output of nine by year’s end….”


The Associated Press/MSNBC News – October 11, 2004


An international market in embryos?  Until a new law goes into effect, French researchers will import embryos…


France Green Lights Stem Cells


Researchers are cheered by developments that allow human embryonic stem cell research to start



“Scientists in France are optimistic about the future of stem cell research now that the government has removed a final legal hurdle to studies on human embryonic cells.


“A bioethics law approved by the French National Assembly in August granted permission to scientists to carry out research on human embryonic stem cells for 5 years as long as research is directed towards the development of treatments for serious disease.


“Last Tuesday (October 5), the French Minister for Health Philippe Douste-Blazy authorized the import of human embryonic cell stems. His decision paves the way for research on human embryos until they are 6 to 8 days old to take place in the country for the first time….”


The Scientist/BioMed Central – October 11, 2004


The ethics of ‘everything done right’ refers only to procedures; the decision to destroy human embryos has already been made…


Harvard Has Human Cloning Plans


Institute seeks nod to create embryos using genes from patients with diabetes, Parkinson's



“Two Harvard University teams plan to produce cloned human embryos, the Boston Globe reported earlier this week. Doug Melton and Kevin Eggan are seeking permission from Harvard’s stem cell research committee to make embryos carrying the genetic material of patients with type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, while George Daley and Leonard Zon are planning similar experiments to study immune deficiency and other disorders of the bone marrow, but have not yet formally sought permission.


“The Harvard efforts represent the first potential attempt to clone human embryos at a US institution since a failed effort by University of California at San Francisco researchers in 2001. This February in Science, a South Korean team reported that they had produced cloned human embryos, fueling fears among US stem cell researchers and advocates that the country is losing its edge in stem cell research due to Bush administration restrictions on federal funding. In August, Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority granted the United Kingdom’s first license to create human embryonic stem cells using cell nuclear replacement.


“Both Harvard teams belong to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, which the university formed earlier this year to support human stem cell research and study its ethical implications. Their work would be funded privately. ‘This is exactly the kind of work we envisioned’ for the institute, Melton, the institute’s co-director, told the Globe.


“Zon has taken great care to ensure that ‘everything is done right’ in the process of considering the experiments, Daley told The Scientist. ‘That means making sure that everyone in the research administration appreciates what’s going on and approves of the methods and regulations for our doing the work, people in the legal office are satisfied that we’re doing the right thing, people in finance are satisfied that the funding can be kept separate.’…”


The Scientist/BioMed Central – October 15, 2004


Inventing a constitutional ‘right’ to clone…or, more accurately, a ‘right’ for scientists to be free from oversight…


Free to Clone,

by Brian Alexander



“This election year, the debate over cloning technology has become a circus—and hardly anybody has noticed the gorilla hiding in the tent. Even while President Bush has endorsed throwing scientists in jail to stop ‘reckless experiments’ (and has tried to muscle the U.N. into adopting a ban on all forms of cloning, even for research), it’s just possible the First Amendment will protect researchers who want to perform cloning research.


“Dr. Leon Kass, the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics and a cloning foe, would like to keep that a secret. ‘I don’t want to encourage such thinking,’ he said during the council’s July 24, 2003, session. But the notion that the First Amendment creates a ‘right to research’ has been around for a long time, and Kass knows it.


“In 1977, four eminent legal scholars—Thomas Emerson, Jerome Barron, Walter Berns and Harold P. Green—were asked to testify before the House Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. At the time, there was alarm in the country over recombinant DNA, or gene splicing. Some people feared clones, designer babies, a plague of superbacteria. The committee wanted to know if the federal government should, or could, restrict the science….”


The New York Times – September 26, 2004



Editor’s Note:  Does “science know what is good for society like a parent knows what is good for the child?”  For an insightful article commenting on this idea as well as on Brian Alexander’s proposal for a constitutional “right” to clone, see Wesley J. Smith’s “Constitutional Cloning” in the Weekly Standard (09/29/2004).


Death by ‘removal of internal organs’…


Coroner: Removing Man's Organs was Homicide



“A western Colorado coroner said Monday that two hospitals allowed vital organs to be removed from a man before they had proven he was brain dead, and he declared the death a homicide.


“The cause of William Rardin’s death was ‘removal of his internal organs by an organ recovery team,’ Montrose County Coroner Mark Young said. He said he did not believe the case should be a criminal matter, but that it ‘should lead to a clarification of what the accepted standard is.’


“Young said Montrose Memorial Hospital in Montrose and St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction did not follow ‘accepted medical standards’ or meet state guidelines in determining that 31-year-old William Rardin was brain dead after he shot himself last month.


“Rardin’s heart, liver, pancreas and two kidneys were transplanted into waiting patients….” – October 5, 2004


President Bush’s goal:  electronic health records for most Americans within a decade…


FDA Approves Computer Chip for Humans


Devices could help doctors with stored medical information



“Medical milestone or privacy invasion? A tiny computer chip approved Wednesday [Oct. 13, 2004] for implantation in a patient’s arm can speed vital information about a patient’s medical history to doctors and hospitals. But critics warn that it could open new ways to imperil the confidentiality of medical records.


“The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that Applied Digital Solutions of Delray Beach, Fla., could market the VeriChip, an implantable computer chip about the size of a grain of rice, for medical purposes.


“With the pinch of a syringe, the microchip is inserted under the skin in a procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and leaves no stitches. Silently and invisibly, the dormant chip stores a code that releases patient-specific information when a scanner passes over it….


Chip's dual uses raise alarm


“The VeriChip itself contains no medical records, just codes that can be scanned, and revealed, in a doctor’s office or hospital. With that code, the health providers can unlock that portion of a secure database that holds that person’s medical information, including allergies and prior treatment. The electronic database, not the chip, would be updated with each medical visit….”


The Associated Press/MSNBC – October 13, 2004


Advancing the “therapeutic nanny state”…


Mandatory Mental Health Screening Threatens Privacy, Parental Rights



“On Sept. 9, the ‘Ron Paul Amendment’ was defeated in the House of Representatives by a vote of 95-315.


“The Amendment would have prevented the funds sought by an appropriations bill (HR 5006) from being used for the mandatory mental-health screening of Americans, including public schoolchildren.


“Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a practicing physician for more than 30 years, campaigned against the new program on the grounds that it negates parental rights and would encourage the over-medication of children.


“Prior to the House vote, Paul had vehemently denounced mandatory mental-health screening in a letter to fellow congressmen.


“Paul wrote, ‘[P]sychotropic drugs are increasingly prescribed for children who show nothing more than children’s typical rambunctious behavior. Many children have suffered harmful effects from these drugs. Yet some parents have even been charged with child abuse for refusing to drug their children. The federal government should not promote national mental-health screening programs that will force the use of these psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin.’…”


Editor’s Note:  A good summary of the practical reasons for not permitting mental health screening and medication of students through public school programs is given at the end of this article. – September 17, 2004


For additional information on the issue of medicating children through school operated programs, see the testimony of Karen R. Effrem, M.D. prepared for the Hearing on “Protecting Children:  The Use of Medication in Our Nation’s Schools and H.R. 1170, Child Medication Safety Act of 2003.”  [May 12, 2003]


The politics of the declining support for abortion…


Many States Would Ban Abortion, Report Finds


Roe v. Wade ruling prevents it, but that could change


“Thirty states are poised to make abortion illegal within a year if the Supreme Court reversed its 1973 ruling establishing a woman’s legal right to an abortion, an advocacy group said Tuesday.


“The Center for Reproductive Rights said some states have old laws on the books that would be triggered by the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Others have language in their state constitutions or strongly anti-abortion legislatures that would act quickly if the federal protection for abortion was ended and the issue reverted to the states.


“The building blocks are already in place to recriminalize abortion,” said Nancy Northup, the center’s president.


“The group’s report comes less than a month before the presidential election, which those on both sides of the abortion issue say will be critical in determining the future of the Roe decision.


New justice could shift debate


“Currently, it is believed that five of the nine justices support abortion rights, but that balance could be tipped if President Bush, in a second term, nominates a new justice who reflects his anti-abortion views. Democratic contender John Kerry is a strong supporter of abortion rights….” Associated Press – October 5, 2004


Worth considering…


Robert P. George on the moral status of human embryos, including cloned human embryos...



“…Just as fertilization, if successful, generates a human embryo, cloning produces the same result by combining what is normally combined and activated in fertilization, that is, the full genetic code plus the ovular cytoplasm. Fertilization produces a new and complete, though immature, human organism. The same is true of successful cloning. Cloned embryos therefore ought to be treated as having the same moral status as other human embryos.


“A human embryo is a whole living member of the species homo sapiens in the earliest stage of his or her natural development. Unless denied a suitable environment, an embryonic human being will by directing its own integral organic functioning develop himself or herself to the next more mature developmental stage, i.e., the fetal stage. The embryonic, fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages are stages in the development of a determinate and enduring entity—a human being—who comes into existence as a single cell organism and develops, if all goes well, into adulthood many years later….


“If the embryo were not a complete organism, then what could it be? Unlike the spermatozoa and the oocytes, it is not a part of the mother or of the father. Nor is it a disordered growth such as a hydatidiform mole or teratoma. (Such entities lack the internal resources to actively develop themselves to the next more mature stage of the life of a human being.) Perhaps someone will say that the early embryo is an intermediate form, something that regularly emerges into a whole (though immature) human organism but is not one yet. But what could cause the emergence of the whole human organism, and cause it with regularity? It is clear that from the zygote stage forward, the major development of this organism is controlled and directed from within, that is, by the organism itself. So, after the embryo comes into being, no event or series of events occur that could be construed as the production of a new organism; that is, nothing extrinsic to the developing organism itself acts on it to produce a new character or new direction in development….”


“To deny that embryonic human beings deserve full respect, one must suppose that not every whole living human being is deserving of full respect. To do that, one must hold that those human beings who deserve full respect deserve it not in virtue of the kind of entity they are, but, rather, in virtue of some acquired characteristic that some human beings (or human beings at some stages) have and others do not, and which some human beings have in greater degree than others….”



Excerpt is from the Personal Statement of Robert P. George, D.Phil., J.D. (joined by Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, Ph.D.) in the cloning report, Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry (July 2002), produced by The President’s Council on Bioethics.  The entire report is available at the web site of the President’s Council in both html and pdf versions.  The Personal Statement of Drs. George and Gómez-Lobo is on pp. 258-266 of the report.




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