Questions in Bioethics: Genetically Modified Animals, and Now Humans | WYPR

Questions in Bioethics: Genetically Modified Animals, and Now Humans

Oct 13, 2016

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn is director of Johns Hopkins University's Berman Institute for Bioethics.
Credit Johns Hopkins University

Today, we consider some important issues in the field of bioethics.

Tom welcomes Dr. Jeffrey Kahn to Studio A.  Dr. Kahn is the director of the Berman Center of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University.  Folks in his field think about things like the ethical ramifications of research, how doctors interact with patients, public health policy, and global approaches to things like food distribution and allocation of medicine.  Different approaches have different outcomes, and bioethicists think about those outcomes through the prism of the moral dimension of those choices.

We thought we’d start by talking about the public health issue that has dominated the headlines since this summer.  The Zika virus grabbed the public health spotlight and spread like crazy in certain parts of the world, including an outbreak that has been controlled in the Miami area. One of the approaches to eliminating the virus that scientists are considering involves genetically modifying mosquitoes and then releasing them into the environment. On the surface, it may seem that changing the genetic make-up of some insects shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But like so many of the issues that Jeff Kahn and his colleagues consider, it’s not that simple.

Dr. Kahn also weighs in on the topic of babies now being born with more than two biological parents. They actually carry the genetic material of three parents. To the parents who otherwise might not have biological children, the technology that makes this possible is a blessing. But is it a good idea? What are the consequences of these new possibilities? Tom asks Dr. Kahn about framing the questions we should be asking in bioethics, to find the answers we need.