Nanotechnologies, Bioethics and Human Dignity
Journal international de bioéthique = International journal of bioethics 2011 Mar-Jun; 22(1): 17-36, 206
Nanoscale science, research, and technology present a complex set of circumstances. First of all, this field involves many different subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, and environment sciences. Secondly, although scientists are working increasingly at a molecular level, nanotechnology is about much more than a reduction of scale. Indeed, nanoscience and nanotechnologies offer an unprecedented ability to control and manipulate nature, offering hope for progress. Ethical perspectives vary considerably in this field, but commentators and researchers share a concern about a specific worrisome issue: the lack of appropriate ethical and legal principles and processes (associated with issues including health risks, human body manipulation, and private life violation), to guide nanotechnological R&D, commercialization, and final use. Some authors partially reject this concern by suggesting that nanoscience and nanotechnologies do not constitute an autonomous category, and that they are instead just the operative result of combining other traditional areas of study. However the nanotechnological debate brings up the semantic and content issues of bioethics and foments a contentious discussion emphasizing human dignity. Issues include enhancement versus therapeutic intervention, traceability versus privacy, and societal benefits versus risks. From these preliminary considerations, we will move on to discuss (I) the traditional, although still controversial, relationship between bioethics and human dignity, and (II) return to the subject of nanotechnology. We will discuss how today in Europe, although still indefinite, the principle of respect for human dignity is a welcomed contributor to "ethical vigilance" about the uncertain development of new nano-scale technologies. We will also note how U.S. strategy in this regard is simply lacking and appears only as a purely discursive "key issue in long term ".
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