Biomedical ethics originated in the second half of the 20th century, following dramatic developments in both the natural and medical sciences. These advances carried with them significant new ethical dilemmas. The concept of ‘brain death,’ for example, arose with the use of artificial respirators and the spread of organ transplantation technology. With such technology came a multitude of fundamental ethical questions, including “How do we define human death?” and “Is it morally acceptable to transplant organs from brain dead and/or live bodies?”
Or consider how assisted reproduction technology that has surpassed mere artificial insemination has generated yet another set of ethical dilemmas. In addition to questions pertaining to “the right to procreate” and the desire to have “a perfect baby,” questions are raised relating to our society as a whole, regarding sex selection and disease discrimination. Yet perhaps even more fundamental to our human existence is the use of enhancement technology, in which new drugs and devices are now being used to augment human psychological and physical capabilities beyond the scope of normal human experience. These technologies have necessitated a redefining of what it means to be human.
Biomedical ethics embodies a responsibility to collect and pass on past and current knowledge to the next generation. I hope that this international COE project will aid future generations as they grapple with the bioethical issues of the future.