A group of prominent bioethicists are warning about the grave human harms that result when sound ethics in the practice of science are either ignored or manipulated in pursuit of innovation.
In a panel discussion last week at the Heritage Foundation about why bioethics matters, particularly as it relates to what it means to be human, speakers Tara Sander Lee, Jennifer Lahl and Melissa Moschella opined on the dangers of an ends justifying the means approach to science.
The women — all professionals with backgrounds in bioethics, medical science and philosophy — spoke of the harms inherent in such things as three-parent embryos, surrogacy, reproductive technology, gene editing, and embryonic stem cell research, and highlighted the deception that routinely frames these issues in major news outlets.
Lee, senior fellow and director of Life Sciences at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said during Q&A — in response to a question from The Christian Post about why the harms are not more visible to the average American — that a significant issue is transparency within the scientific community.
"A lot of times people see how cool the science is but they're failing to educate the public and explain to them what was actually done in the process to get to that [scientific discovery], what materials were used in that process. That's a key part of information that's missing, not only to the public but to the scientists themselves."
During her presentation Lee highlighted the world's first ever human-monkey hybrid that was grown in a laboratory in China, CRISPR gene editing technology, and the research done on "humanized mice," which utilizes tissue obtained from aborted human fetuses.
"There are a lot of scientists, especially in training that are often pressured to use materials or because there is a lack of transparency, they don't even really know what they're using," Lee said.
Media coverage of new-fangled reproductive technologies often hides the harmful impact on actual people, noted Lahl, a documentary filmmaker and founder of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. To counter their celebratory narrative, Lahl makes films to tell the stories of women who have been damaged by the fertility industry.
"We can't get the media, overwhelmingly, especially the mainstream media, to present the negative, the downsides," she said.
"You see Kim Kardashian on the cover of People magazine because they just had their next baby through commercial surrogacy. You don't ever see a picture of the surrogate mother and hear how she was treated. Most of these surrogates who serve for these very high-profile, wealthy couples don't even know who they're carrying a baby for. They're bound to anonymity, they're carrying a baby for someone who doesn't want you to know who they are."