Bioethics Symposium featured in Claremont Courier
April 21, 2007
The issues of biotechnology and human rights are topics that could make for a lively discussion in and of themselves. Yet combine the two and you have the potential for an explosive exchange.
The Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences took great care with the issues, providing a comfortable forum for the expression of multiple thoughts and ideas when the school held its 2007 Bioethics Symposium on Tuesday.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for us to collaborate with different leaders in the field," said Gary Cohen, KGI Bioethics Symposium moderator and Joseph and Vi Jacobs visiting professor or biotechnology law and ethics. "We deeply collaborated around tough questions and issues and this is the way to do it. The whole purpose is provocation."
An all-day event, the symposium was divided into 4 major sessions that focused on different aspects of the biotechnology and human rights consideration. The major topics explored were: Biotechnology and the Emerging Human Rights Framework, A "Reorientation" - From Bioethics to Human Rights?, The Corporation and its Obligations and Human Rights for "Redesigned" Humans.
Twelve speakers from a variety of different backgrounds gave presentations in one of the 4 areas and then fielded questions from KGI students and other members of the audience in the presentation room. The presenters were Alexander Capron (UCLA School of Law), Lisa Conte (Napo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.), Ruth Macklin (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), Rosario Isasi (Universite de Montreal), Josephine Johnston (The Hastings Center), Chris MacDonald (Saint Mary’s University), John Douglas (Green Hills Software), Michael Santoro (Rutgers Business School), Gregory Stock (UCLA School of Public Health), Stephen Marks (Harvard School of Public Health), Ronald Bailey (Reason Magazine) and Pitzer College’s Brian Keeley.
“Part of the intention with the forum is based on who is in the audience," Mr. Keeley said. "These types of decisions are what the students are going to be making in the future. They are going to have to confront them and it’s better for it to hit them now while they’re in their 20s."
When Mr. MacDonald discussed business ethics and rights in one of the afternoon sessions, the philosopher took time to explain the difference between moral rights and political rights. He also spoke about 3 different models of business ethics, touching on the relationship between stockholders and management as well as the relationship between management and employees within a corporation.
“My point is that we all want businesses to act better," Mr. MacDonald explained. "The goal is to have students not rely on their gut feelings but to put forth thoughtful answers to the issues at hand. They’ll have to think through these things carefully."
The last session on Human Rights for "Redesigned" Humans gave students much to think about as the panel of Mr. Stock, Mr. Marks, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Keeley discussed the possibilities of an enhanced humanity through the advancement of genetics, nanotechnology and robotics. Between the presentation and the panel discussion, the segment took the event well past its 5:30 ending time as the talk had the potential to carry on longer than it did.
“Talking about this is important,” said KGI student Robert Tapella. “I think it was interesting and in talking about the issues and the impact of biotechnology, it is important to be exposed to these types of things because these are issues that companies are facing."
Students were not the only ones who attended the symposium. The discussion also aroused the curiosity of various people from the overall community and Adam Miller was pleased to see that the event had brought people to the campus for the first time.
“Geographically, we are a bit further away from the colleges so it was good to see a lot of the community members out here," the KGI student said.
After the event was over, there was a reception held where the students, faculty, staff and guest speakers continued to discuss the topics of the day.
Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences is a member of the Claremont Colleges and is the only American graduate school created exclusively for the education of leaders for the life science industry. The institute also offers the world’s only Master of Bioscience degree.-Landus Rigsb