Focus Area: The Human Life Span
From birth through the end of life, there are many ethical challenges that can affect a person across their life span. Advancements in new reproductive technologies and life-extending medications, for example, have increased the need for reasoned analysis of issues that arise when caring for children, the chronically ill, and the elderly.
As knowledge of genetics, environment, reproduction, parenting, and childrearing evolves, so do ethical questions. Dramatically increasing the amount of available prenatal genetic information, for example—ranging from disease risk to indicators of intelligence—spurs questions about how this knowledge could and/or should affect parenting and the role society plays in raising healthy children.
More effective public health measures, treatment of once-fatal infectious diseases, and a wide range of life-sustaining technologies now allow people to live much longer. Often, longer lives mean more age-related chronic illnesses that people may face for years. As the massive baby-boomer generation ages, there are hard choices to make, and each requires careful ethical analysis, balancing stakeholder interests, health care professional accountability, and the need for robust public discussion.