Human Exceptionalism

My Predictions for 2008

Each year the Center for Bioethics and Culture asks me to predict what will happen in the next 12 months regarding the major bioethical and biotechnological controversies of the day. So, I put on my Carnac the Magnificent hat and predicted away. It is worth noting that my expectations were affected materially by the great iPSC breakthrough, as this excerpt from my column suggests:

When the CBC asked me to play Nostradamus and prognosticate on how I see bioethical and biotechnological issues playing out next year, I had a good idea about much of what I would say. And most of it wasn’t very encouraging. But then something very big happened that made me glad I hadn’t written this article last month: Scientists in Japan and the United States “reprogrammed” human skin cells back to a stem cell state. And the world shifted.

That breakthrough materially impacted the political and scientific environments, which in turn, affected my predictions. (For example, I was planning to predict that the Bush stem cell funding policy would be overturned. I now predict it will remain in place throughout the remainder of his term.)

In any event, in a nutshell, here are some of the major events that I see happening in 2008:

Research into human iPSCs will advance toward overcoming the need to use viruses in the cell reprogramming

The first human cloned embryonic stem cell line will be created

Methods will be advanced toward obtaining human eggs without requiring super-ovulation

No laws will be passed to permit egg buying for biotechnological research

The Bush ESCR funding restrictions will not be overturned

There will be no changes in the law about human cloning

Washington State Will Reject Legalizing Assisted Suicide

No State Legislature will Pass Assisted Suicide Legislation

Futile Care Theory Will Remain Stalled

Tune in here next November and we’ll see how I did.

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