PRESS RELEASE: 10-11-2019 Hastings Center Report, September-October 2019

Human-Animal Chimeras: The Moral Insignificance of Uniquely Human Capacities

Julian J. Koplin

 Human-animal chimeras—creatures composed of a mix of animal and human cells—have come to play an important role in biomedical research, and they raise ethical questions. This article focuses on one particularly difficult set of questions—those related to the moral status of human-animal chimeras with brains that are partly or wholly composed of human cells. To assess moral status, we first need to determine what kinds of capacities are morally relevant. The standard view holds that it matters, morally, if chimeric animals develop uniquely human cognitive capacities. The author argues that this view is mistaken, highlighting three problems with it and calling for a better framework for thinking about the moral status of part-human beings. Koplin is a research fellow with the Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne and with the Biomedical Ethics Research Group of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Other Voices: “Human-Animal Chimeras, ‘Human’ Cognitive Capacities, and Moral Status,” by David Degrazia; “The Moral Status of Human-Animal Chimeras with Human Brain Cells,” by Julie A. Tannenbaum; and “Animals with Human Cells in Their Brains: Implications for Research,” by Karen J. Maschke

Perspective: Of Slide Rules and Stethoscopes: AI and the Future of Doctoring

Robert D. Truog

 Historically, the practice of medicine has been a physically intimate endeavor. Physicians have used their hands to palpate and reveal the secrets hidden within the body. Today, perhaps the most defining characteristic of a brilliant clinician is the ability to synthesize many images—from electrocardiograms, ultrasounds, CT scans, and so forth—into a coherent picture that can guide diagnosis and treatment. Just as we are about to drown in a deluge of data, AI is throwing us a life preserver, to save not only our patients but ourselves. But where will AI take us? Truog is the Frances Glessner Lee professor of medical ethics, anaesthesia & pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

At Law: California Takes the Lead on Data Privacy Law

Mark A. Rothstein and Stacy A. Tovino

With the explosion of information technology and the growing concerns about an absence of effective federal privacy laws, the legal focus on protecting people’s privacy has shifted to the states. Signaling a new direction, the California Consumer Privacy Act, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, establishes important rights and protections for residents with regard to the collection, use, disclosure, and sale of their personal information. The law is certain to spur similar legislation and to affect national and international businesses. Understanding the new law is important for all data-driven industries, including health care. Rothstein is the Herbert F. Boehl chair of law and medicine and the director of the Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Tovino is the Judge Jack and Lulu Lehman professor of law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law.

 Also in this issue: “Admiring Dan’s Creation” and other essays in a set that pays tribute to Hastings Center cofounder Daniel Callahan, written by current and past scholars and members of The Hastings Center’s staff.

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