Anti-Eugenics Legacy of Bioethics


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Osagie Obasogie, the Haas Distinguished Chair and Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law with a joint appointment in the Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health, discusses the intersection between bioethics and eugenics historically and today.


Discussion Questions

  • What does history add to understanding contemporary issues? Are there examples besides eugenics that you can identify?
  • How does the historical use of eugenics differ from the potential use of eugenics today? Who is making the decisions? Why are they making the decisions? How did/could it affect different populations?
  • Dr. Obasogie mentions the 4 principles of bioethics (autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice) and goes into detail on how autonomy could apply in a ‘Gattaca-like’ intervention of selecting attributes for a child. How would you apply the other three factors?

Selected Resources

Osagie K. Obasogie, Do Blind People See Race? Social, Legal, and Theoretical Considerations, 44 Law & Society Review 585 (2010) available at https://repository.uchastings.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2357&context=faculty_scholarship

Shankar Vedantam, Jennifer Schmidt, Thomas Lu, Tara Boyle, and Laura Kwerel, Emma, Carrie, Vivian: How a Family Became a Test Case for Forced Sterilizations, Hidden Brain, February 18, 2019

Image Archive on American Eugenics Movement, Dolan DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/list3.pl

Caitlin Dickerson, Seth Freed Wessler, and Miriam Jordan, Immigrants Say They Were Pressured into Unneeded Surgeries, The New York Times, September 29, 2020

National Human Genome Research Institute, What is Genome Editing?, https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/policy-issues/what-is-Genome-Editing

Vera Lucia Raposo, The First Chinese Edited Babies: A Leap of Faith in Science, JBRA Assisted Reproduction, 23(3): 197-199 (2019), available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6724388/

David Cyranoski, What CRISPR-baby prison sentences mean for research, Nature 577: 164-155 (2020)

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