Ethical issues are seldom neat and tidy. These issues pose questions or dilemmas that have no clear-cut, easy answers. They involve questions about which even well-informed people who want only the best for themselves and others will often reasonably disagree. In this series of exercises, you will be asked to look up some definitions, to begin to address some ethical issues in biology, to explore what the strategies are for facing the issues, and finally to engage in classroom discussion of these issues. After completing this activity, you should have improved your understanding in the field of ethics, clarified some of your own ideas about what you believe, and listened to others as they, too, explore ethical reasoning and decision-making. In addition, you will have the opportunity to read a summary of the philosophies of three great thinkers from this century and discuss a bioethical dilemma using their philosophical framework.


When you have completed these exercises, you will be able to:

* identify some of the ethical problems inherent in biotechnology;

* assess the factual information available;

* consider who will be affected and in what ways;

* identify the options available to the decision maker;

* decide which values are at stake, such as freedom, truth-telling, fairness, respect, growth of scientific knowledge, the ecology, human and animal well-being;

* consider the process for bioethical decision-making: the law, the family, and society.


The following is an outline of activities which will take more than one class period to accomplish. Some activities you will do on your own; many of the activities will be done in class and in cooperative-learning groups.

Your participation is the key to your success in these activities. As you proceed through the activities regarding bioethics, it is important to keep the following passage in mind:

"In bioethics the right answers are not in the back of the book; and, you won't

have them all either, because there are sometimes no definitive right answers, only answers that are more or less reasonable, more or less defensible and justifiable in the light of reflection, analysis, and dialogue." (from New Choices, New Responsibilities: Ethical Issues in the Life Sciences, The Hastings Center 1990).

Use the dictionary to define the following words (#1-5) and then answer the questions (#5-7).

1. Ethics

2. Morals

3. Values

4. Bioethics

5. How are VALUES different from MORALS?

6. What is the difference between MORALS and ETHICS?

7. In your own words, what, then, is BIOETHICS?

Bioethics is a newer, broader field of study that has arisen during the past twenty or thirty years. It will become increasingly more important to the future as the biological revolution opens up new powers, new choices, and new dilemmas.

In order to explore bioethical issues, we must open our minds to new ideas and learn to see connections between decisions, actions, and their consequences for the person, for others, and for society as a whole.

Some basic rules for discussion of philosophy or ethics are:





There are several steps in analyzing any bioethical issue:

* Identify the problem or problems - - What has to be decided? By whom? What issues does it raise?

* Assess the facts relevant to the problem - - What is not known that should be known before a decision is made? Where can you find that information, and is that source reliable?

* Who will be affected by the decision, and in what ways - - Are they "innocent bystanders"? Do they understand the risks?

* What are the options? Are they narrow or forced? Is there any way to make it a "Win-Win" situation?

* What is the process? Is there a legal precedent? Do I need the cooperation of others? Is there "due process" and participation by all persons involved? (Due process: are all those who will be affected being given notice and opportunity for input?)

* What values are at stake - - freedom, honesty, respect, ecology, growth of scientific knowledge, human and animal well-being?

Classroom Practice of the Bioethics Decision-making Model

Use the above six steps to practice the decision-making model. Fill in the steps below as you and your classmates choose a simple issue and apply the model to it.

(Some suggestions for issues might include: a couple deciding the gender of their next child, or a laboratory technician creating a bacteria that eats oil.)

1. What is the issue?

2. What has to be decided? By whom? What other issues does it raise?

3. What are the facts? What is not known? Is the information reliable?

4. Who will be affected? Are there "innocent bystanders"?

5. What are the options? Are they narrow or forced? Is it a "Win-Win" situation?

6. Is there legal precedent? Will others need to cooperate? Is there "due process" ?

7. What values, if any, are at stake -- freedom, truth, respect, ecology, human or animal well-being, growth of scientific knowledge?



The strategies that you practiced for the BIOETHICS DECISION-MAKING MODEL may be used when exploring any bioethical issue. Now you will use the model to investigate the bioethical dilemma in the novel, Jurassic Park.


By using this model you will:

* practice a working model that has application for the issues you will face throughout your lifetime;

* learn the important elements needed for decision-making when looking at social and ethical issues;

* analyze the important elements of the novel to better understand the author's thesis and point of view.

Decision-Making Model

Complete the following decision-making model. Use a separate piece of paper for your answers so that you can expand your answers. (Note: there is not one correct answer to this question; answers may vary because the issues may be stated in a variety of ways.)

1. What is a BIOETHICAL ISSUE in Jurassic Park ?

2. What has to be decided?

By whom?

What other issues does it raise?

3. What are the facts?

What is not known?

Is the known information reliable? How do you know?

4. Who and what will be affected?

Who are the "innocent bystanders"?

5. What are the options?

Are the options narrow and forced or wide open? Why?

Will it be a Win-Win situation? Explain.

6. If there is legal precedent, how is this issue viewed by the law?

Who will need to cooperate?

Is there "due process?" Are all those who will be affected being given notice and opportunity for input? Why or why not?

7. What values, if any, are at stake? (Consider all of the following as values: freedom, truth, respect, ecology/environment, human/animal well-being, growth of scientific knowledge?)

* Use your answers to these questions as a pre-writing step.

* Meet with a group of three or four to share your comments and to hear what others view as bioethical issues and dilemmas in the novel Jurassic Park.

* Write an essay discussing and supporting your beliefs about the issue you chose.




Marcuse thinks that the appropriate use of technological innovation can be the salvation of human kind. The true needs of people, Marcuse claims, (freedom, individual fulfillment, increased quality of life, a sense of caring and community and the appreciation of beauty) will never be fulfilled in a social order driven by materialism.

Marcuse claims that modern technology and capitalism have created a one-dimensional society, and a one-dimensional man. The tremendous rise in productivity through mass production has resulted in an increased standard of living for all classes of people. Technological progress made the working class wealthy, but most of the power remains in the hands of a few who desire even greater power and wealth.

Growth in a capitalist industrial society is based on consumption, planned obsolescence, and waste. Products are improved, or new ones created, which have the appearance of being more desirable than the ones they are intended to replace. The individual perceives a need to possess bigger and better cars, homes, appliances, all that industry produces. These needs are false needs, not true needs. True needs are those which are necessary for individual survival.

Concentration of economic power in the hands of a few results in control of advertising and the press which are used to create a desire for new or improved products. Materialism becomes a way of life as humans equate success and happiness with material possessions. People come to believe that happiness can only be obtained if they can fulfull the false needs advertising makes them feel they need. Conformity becomes the standard of individual action; people stop thinking for themselves and this prevents a better social order.

If control of technological innovation was in the hands of all, technology would be used to produce materials which would first meet the basic survival needs of all. Technology and innovation could then be directed to reducing labor requirements, increasing leisure, and providing an environment which would actually create individual freedom, the opportunity for self-development, and an increased quality of life. In short, humankind would direct the use of technology to the fulfillment of true needs, rather than false needs.


ABRAHAM MASLOW (1908-1970)


Abraham Maslow believed that every person is born with a set of basic needs and wants which cause people to think, to act, and to respond as they do.

Maslow believed that there are five levels of human needs and that until you have fulfilled the needs at the lowest level, the needs at the next level are either unknown or are

ignored. The five levels are:

1. The first level begins with the things necessary for survival (food,

water, air, sleep)

2. The second level deals with safety needs (the need for security, stability,

protection from harm or injury, orderliness, law, freedom from fear and


3. The third level contains the need for love and the need to belong (warm

affection with spouse, children, parents, and close friends as well as

the need to feel a part of social groups and the need for acceptance and


4. The fourth level may be called esteem needs (a desire for self-esteem

based on achievement, mastery, competence, confidence, freedom,

independence; the desire for prestige, status, and recognition)

5. The fifth and highest level of human needs Maslow labeled self-

actualization needs (which includes the desire for self-fulfillment, to

become what you potentially can be, being true to your essential nature).

"What you can be, you must be."

Needs provide the motivation for human activity as well as explain our action. For example, if we are without food or water, we will be less concerned with our safety until we can provide for our hunger and thirst.


JOHN RAWLS (1921 - )


John Rawls believes that every member of a society should enjoy equal liberties. He believes that a society can be just and fair only if all members enjoy equal freedom. At the very least, a just society must ensure that all of its members start out on equal footing. A good society should make sure that the least advantaged members receive the greatest benefits. The highest priority should be to serve the most disadvantaged member. The interests of the most advantaged member of society should be government's lowest priority.

In his 1971 book A Theory of Justice, Rawls allows inequalities to exist only if two conditions are met. First, the inequalities are to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged member. An inequality is fair only if it can be shown to benefit those worst off. In other words, a policy which increases benefit to those most well off must likewise increase benefits to the least advantaged so that they are better off than under the previous system. Second, all members of society must have an opportunity to benefit from the inequalities. The social structure must allow all citizens the chance to join the ranks of the most advantaged.

Each of us has different ideas of justice based on self-interest. The poor view social welfare as the most just system, whereas the rich support a free market economy. To overcome self-interest, Rawls tries to determine what standards of fairness people would choose if they did not know what their positions were in a society. Since each person has an equal chance of being one of society's least advantaged members, each person would accept a principle of justice which favors the least advantaged. The least advantaged live constantly on the edge of life and death. A social order which favored the upper or middle class might devastate the poor. On the other hand, a social order which favored the least advantaged would still provide a high standard of living to the most advantaged citizens.

Rawls believes that this "distributive justice" is a more important principle than freedom, equality, or prosperity.