Bonnie Steinbock

The Limits to Conscience

January 22, 2018
Last week the Trump administration created a new entity within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. It was one of several steps the President has taken recently to expand religious freedom protections for health care workers who object to performing procedures like abortion and gender reassignment surgery. Is there a place for conscientious refusal in medicine? What is the danger of this new division?
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Should We Cure Genetic Diseases?

June 7, 2017
In "Trying to Embrace a 'Cure'," (New York Times, June 4, 2017), Sheila Black notes that in the near future there may be a treatment that could amount to a cure for the genetic illness she and two of her children have -- X-linked hypophosphatemia or XLH. But Ms. Black is ambivalent about the prospect. Although she acknowledges the potential benefits both to individuals and to society, the issue is, for her, complex.
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SHEEFs, Sentience, and the 14-Day Rule

March 31, 2017
Embryo research, made possible by IVF, raised the question of the moral status of human embryos. Are human embryos human subjects, who are entitled to stringent protections? Or are they clumps of cells that can be used in research, so long as the permission of their creators is obtained? The 14-day rule was agreed upon, which specifies that experiments with human embryos must not let them develop beyond 14 days. Now a new development in stem cell research, the creation of "synthetic embryos", has raised the question of whether or not SHEEFs should be protected by the same kinds of restrictions as IVF, or non-synthetic, embryos.
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Kidnapped at Birth

January 23, 2017
The question of 'who are the real parents?' can arise in a range of contexts. The law has traditionally regarded genetic ties as the determining factor. Other courts have placed less emphasis on genetic connection and more on intention. Still others would argue that biology, whether genetic or gestational, is not the sole factor in determining who is a parent. Surely someone who takes care of and has responsibility for a child, who loves and is loved by that child, has as much claim to be a parent as someone who is biologically related. More importantly, it seems wrong to deprive children of the people in their lives who have played significant parental roles. But what about the recent news of eighteen year old Alexis Manigo learning that Gloria Williams, the woman who raised her, has been charged with kidnapping her when she was eight hours old? Would a best interest analysis have applied were she still a minor today?
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Having a Baby at 50

January 9, 2017
Pop star Janet Jackson, who turns 51 this coming May, gave birth to her first child last week. She and her husband have allegedly been working with a fertility specialist for some time. Many people react with horror, or even disgust, to the idea of this. However, people have had similar emotional reactions to interracial and same-sex marriage. Rather than relying on emotion, I propose the following framework for evaluating reproductive technologies: procreative liberty and procreative responsibility.
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Frozen on the Dock of the Bay

October 8, 2015
Yet another dispute by a divorced couple over what to do with their frozen embryos is in the news. This one may lead to new legal rules over how to decide such cases.
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Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life

August 24, 2015
At present, wrongful life suits should be recognized as the only recourse for some children to get the medical care and services they need.
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© Clarkson, Bioethics Program