Landmark Legal Cases in Bioethics
Only a few decades old, the interdisciplinary field of bioethics has developed surrounded by centuries of legal tradition and moral philosophy. Bioethics and the law have weaved back and forth over time influencing each field. Sometimes ethics leads the debate on problematical issues; for example, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee at the National Institutes of Health established regulations prior to initiating human gene therapy. At other times, law takes over; Roe v. Wade, for example, has polarized and closed public discussion on abortion. Most frequently, however, scientific developments initiate discussion in both fields, as when the announcement of the birth of Dolly—the first cloned mammal—sparked President Clinton to ask the National Bioethics Advisory Commission for a report on cloning.
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