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Bioethics, Public Policy and Science: Tech Philosophy Term Paper

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Updated: Sep 21st, 2021


Current research seeks to make contribution to contemporary debates on bioethics and its realization in public policy. There is no denying the importance of the fact that these issues should be discussed taking into consideration modern development of philosophy.

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There is no denying the importance of the fact that the historical development of bioethics was firmly connected with global technological revolution which deeply transformed religious worldview, the notions of life, death, human reproduction.

First of all, as Kaplan suggests, the development of bioethics went in line with the progress of medical science, biology and gene engineering (Kaplan, 2004). In its turn, being influenced by theology and moral ideology, bioethics quickly developed and became the concern of scientific and public institutions which quickly developed (Annas and Sherman, 2004).

Such organizations as Institutional Biosafety Committees and Hospital Ethics Committees (HECs) deeply influenced the development of bioethics as interdisciplinary field lying on the intersection of politics, morality and law. With the development of gene engineering and growing possibility of using stem cells and genomes for various purposes bioethics received the highest state recognition with President Clinton and Bush creating corresponding councils headed by the best theoreticians and practical specialists. The debates on abortion, cloning, use of stem cells transformed from ordinary scientific debates into mass debates with political flavor.

This research seeks to provide a thorough analysis of the interrelation between stem cells research policies, bioethics and political and public policies and debates.

The basic assumption we pursue is that there exists essential interdependence between science development, public policies and bioethical conceptualizations and debates.

The process of intensive bioethics development started with first in vitro fertilization in 1969 and nationwide legitimization of abortion. Following this central events, public policies were first realized massively at the national level as the federal government prohibited utilization of federal funds for the research and experiments on the human embryos. As of 1995 Human Embryo Research Panel advised Clinton’s administration to give funding on research and experimentation but this advice was decline on ethical and moral basis. This fact shows that bioethics often goes in line with public policy but against the development of science. Some concessions were, however, made thought they were partial. The decision of Clinton’s administration was cemented by the Dickey Amendment which is in law for today.

With the discovery of Human Stem Cells some points of public policies were reconsidered and Clinton administration and Congress even issues an act allowing experimentation if it does not directly cause death of embryo. However, incoming Bush administration decided to reconsider this issue.

Bush administration’s bioethical policies concerning stem cells research made a considerable step forward. Bush administration allowed funding for the already existing embryo experiments though strictly prohibited the financial expansion on the future projects. There is no denying the importance of the fact that this new direction of public policy shows that bioethical issues were compromised with the current development of science which in its turn proved that public policy representatives have great doubts and indefiniteness concerning practical realization of bioethical public policies.

Public policies concerning stem cells experiments on embryos also prove that public policy of Presidential administration goes in line with liberal principle of non-intrusion in private domain. To state plainly, neither administration nor American Congress ever prohibited private funding of embryonic research and gene engineering, although it is evident that private research is even more effective than public initiatives.

The situation has changed dramatically when in 2004 a large group of the moderate Republicans in the Congress signed the letter to G.W. Bush asking him to significantly expand federal expenditures on the research of stem cells and move them beyond the level already supported. As of May 2005, Congress voted for the loosening limitation on federal funding of the stem research including allowing experiments on the frozen embryos based on the permission of donors. However Bush promised that he would veto this Bill he then claimed that this decision is important in terms of national security and development. William Frist, a senate majority leader also welcomed this new public policy vector and said that he would appreciate future increasing of funding for embryonic research.

The Senate bill which passed later in 2006 and allowed utilizing embryonic stem cells and embryos left from Vitro procedures was vetoed by President Bush.

The second Bill passed strictly prohibited and proclaimed as illegal to grow, create and abort human fetuses for the research purposes. The third bill announced would foster the research of isolating embryonic-like stem cells which prevents destruction of the human embryos.

Currently, NIH, that is National Institute of Health has more than 350 financing opportunities for different researchers who are interested in cell research. This institute funded more than 600 million of dollars for the stem cell researches as well as promotion of bioethical studies.

Within the framework of bioethical public policies the US National Academies released in 2005 its authoritative guidelines for the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. These guidelines were designed to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of research, creating program for public debates and information provided as well as developing framework for meeting bioethical standards and fostering responsible procedures and practices.

It should be mentioned also that some states implement their autonomous policies concerning stem cell research. This includes creating new institutes for regenerative medicine and funding various research like in California. However, it goes without saying that these initiatives are accompanied by active promotion of bioethical research. Some states imposed additional restrictions or sometimes complete bans on the embryonic research. Among them one should mention such states as Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, South Dakota, Virginia and some others.


To sum it up, the technological and scientific development which caused great progress in cell research creates difficult problems which are to be resolved on the national level. This process is difficult as it includes various ethical and moral issues and is connected with harsh debates over the directions of public policies. It goes without saying that there exists an urgent need of preserving equilibrium between technological development, public policy effectiveness and stability with the need of maintaining moral consolidation of American society and its religious and ethical grounds.


Kaplan D. M. Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Annas G. J., and Sherman E. ‘Politics, morals, and embryos’. Nature 431 2004, pp.19-20.

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