Biomedical ethics crucial to liberal education

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Thursday, March 9, 2006

To the Editor:

We at the Biomedical Engineering Society support the call to continue the Biomedical Ethics program by Matthew Kelly ’06, Marian Conaty ’06 and Francesco Forin ’06 (“Pulling the plug on biomedical ethics,” Feb. 28). We believe that biomedical ethics is essential to a 21st-century liberal education. We believe that the whole Brown student body, from students pursuing a science education to those focusing in the humanities, can benefit from the presence of such a program and peers who are fluent in biomedical ethics.

One of the major themes dominating the news media in recent years is biotechnology-related. From the debate on stem cell research to the fuss over the Korean science scandal, the influence of biotechnology as a new force in human society is apparent. Not only is biotechnology a rising industry with increasing economic importance, it is also a technological movement that would fundamentally transform human life and the fabric of human society. It seems irrational for Brown to terminate its undergraduate biomedical ethics program right when the effect of biotechnology on society is becoming significant.

It becomes apparent then that not only do we need people to study the ethical issues raised by the pursuit of biomedical research and engineering, but also students who are conscious of the issues arisen from advances in biotechnology and seek to understand them through their trainings in different disciplines spanning from economics to anthropology. As we pursue our respective careers after our time at Brown, a basic understanding of the issues underlying the biotechnological transformation on society will undoubtedly help us to serve the world better.

Yu Kan Au ’07Jillian Harrison ’06Louis Tee ’06March 2