Biotechnology Unzipped: Promises and Realities (1997)
Joseph Henry Press (JHP)
The views expressed in this book are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academies.
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Chapter 3
Biotechnology and the Body

Who would have thought that healing the sick was so fraught with controversy? When less was known about how the body works, and what causes diseases, people had little choice but to accept illness and disability as part of their fate. Depending on a person's philosophy of life, good health was a question of good luck or good morals, disease a misfortune or a punishment for wrongdoing.

Today, we are not inclined to accept fate. Our bodies are less like reflections of our souls, more like consumer products to be properly maintained and repaired, inside and out, by the latest tools on offer in the medical marketplace. While moralizing still attends the sickbed, the questions now deal in economics, rights to privacy, freedom of choice, priorities, and (reflecting the materialism of our culture) ownership of body parts and information. From having little say over our medical well-being, we may now, thanks to biotechnology, have a surfeit of options.

Many of the fears and hopes people have about biotechnology come together in their most potent mix in the field of medicine. Bioengineering techniques give physicians powerful new ways to treat some disorders,


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