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Life Sciences or Death Sciences

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[English] 02/03/2006
Auteur / source : Ronald M. Atlas and Margaret Somerville

Professor in the Faculty of Medicine
Founding Director of the Faculty of Law's Centre for Medicine,
Ethics and Law at McGill University

Tipping the Balance towards Life with Ethics, Codes, and Laws

The search for ethics to govern the life sciences and the threats to public health their misuse could entail, both nationally and internationally, is part of a complex ongoing process which is forcing us to confront diverse and sometimes strongly conflicting viewpoints.

To successfully reduce the threat of bioterrorism and biowarfare, and to protect public health, especially on a global level, we all will need to engage across boundaries that have separated us in the past. Only by doing so can we seek to ensure that the promise of our unparalleled discoveries of new knowledge in the life sciences is fulfilled and it’s potential for unprecedented harm averted.
Certainly, no one measure will be sufficient to ensure that science is not misused, or public health put at risk, or people’s rights not unjustifiably breached, but in conjunction with other measures, ethics and law properly used can contribute to the protection of people, the reduction of risks of serious harm, and the deterrence of bioterrorism and biowarfare. 

 

Ronald Atlas and Margaret Somerville, “Life Sciences or Death Sciences: Tipping the Balance towards Life with Ethics, Codes and Laws”, in Brian Rappert & Caitríona McLeish (eds), A Web of Prevention, Earthscan; London- Sterling, VA, 2007, pp.15-33.