Bioethics Abounds in N.C.
Biotechnology touches virtually every aspect of contemporary life, from food and clothing to health, environmental protection and transportation.
No wonder, then, that it’s also a focus of scrutiny as scientists continue to tweak cells in ways that open new challenges and opportunities to mankind. If we are suddenly able to do something never before possible, does that mean we should?
North Carolina, as the nation’s number-three biotech state, is endowed with college and university campuses that not only teach the science involved in biotech, but also offer a wide range of bioethics discussions, courses and even a graduate-degree program started in the fall of 2011 at Wake Forest University.
In fact, WFU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has just started taking applications for its master’s degree program in bioethics for fall 2012 enrollment.
The program engages students – mostly mid-career professionals -- in the ethics of healthcare, biomedical research and health policy and administration.
The degree can be completed on its own in three semesters or as a joint degree with the medical, juris doctorate or divinity programs. Students also have the option to attend part-time. The program offers a certificate in bioethics as well.
Biotech Center supports bioethics activities
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, as the state’s chief biotech cheerleader, also champions bioethics through support of lecture series, educational programming and other outreach efforts.
The Bioethics Resource Network, for example, is a Charlotte-area Regional Exchange Group, part of the statewide collaboration and outreach network supported by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
People with professional and personal interests in bioethics, including community professionals, academics and scientists, use the forum to discuss and explore bioethical issues. Recent meeting topics have included genetic diagnosis, counseling and therapy, genetic enhancement, cloning, extending life span, genetically modified food and animals, designer drugs, machine-body interfacing (“bionic” men and women), tissue and organ engineering, patenting and confidentiality.
More information is available from Rosemarie Tong, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Health Care Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and director of the university’s Center for Applied and Professional Ethics.
Tong, a distinguished feminist as well as internationally renowned bioethicist, serves on the Biotechnology Center’s Greater Charlotte Office Regional Advisory Committee. She was also asked by the National Institutes of Health in September 2011 to serve a four-year term on a federal panel weighing big-picture issues involving science and ethics.
Tong’s center in Charlotte is another example of campus-based programs. It collaborates with people on and off campus “to shape an intellectual, interdisciplinary, and moral space in which people can critically assess, thoughtfully discuss, and strategically address the ethical challenges that confront them, specifically in the realms of business, healthcare, information technology, engineering, education, the arts, popular culture, and public policy.”
Duke, UNC at Chapel Hill house bioethics centers
The Research Triangle has two major university-based bioethics programs.
The Center for Bioethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill facilitates research, education and consultation on ethical issues in biomedical research and health care. It’s sponsored by the UNC School of Medicine, but includes faculty from, and partnerships with, programs across the university campus and the UNC Health Care System.
The Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine was founded on the principle that the practice of medicine involves academic disciplines beyond the pure and applied sciences.
Through its core faculty and its network of faculty associates, The Trent Center helps to connect the larger community of scholars at Duke interested in issues pertaining to medicine and its role in society. By creating interactions among scholars, the Trent Center serves as a catalyst both for individual academic research and for collaborations, especially in research and teaching.
It offers courses in bioethics, research ethics and global health ethics as well as the history of medicine. It also supports the Duke Hospital Clinical Ethics Program which provides consulting and teaching for the hospital staff, medical students, residents, and faculty.