Why We Need Bioethics

Anthony Fauci is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He is an immunologist who has made substantial contributions to research on AIDS and other immunodeficiencies. He has pioneered the field of human immunoregulation and developed effective therapies for formally fatal inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases. In the field of AIDS research, he has helped contribute to an understanding of how the AIDS virus destroys the body's defenses leading to its susceptibility to deadly infections.

He has also served as an editor of Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine and has authored, coauthored or edited more than 1,100 scientific publications, including several textbooks. Dr. Fauci is a key advisor to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services on global AIDS issues and public health protections against emerging infectious disease threats, such as pandemic influenza. He was educated at Cornell University Medical College and holds 32 honorary doctorate degrees. 

  • Transcript


Topic: Why We Need Bioethics 

Anthony Fauci: 

Well actually bioethics is a very, very important field. As we get more and more in the arena of understanding science and getting better opportunities, the fact that you can do things with biological sciences that have an impact on a human being means you must have ethical standards. And paramount among these are when you do something that involves a human subject.

There are a lot of bioethical issues, but for example, if you’re trying to develop a new drug or a new vaccine, and you need to do experimentation, there has to be some fundamental, immutable principles of ethics that guide what you can and cannot do when you’re dealing with another human being. And there are also fundamental things that you can and cannot do when you’re dealing with life itself.

Is it or is it not ethical to create an embryo, and to create a person for the purpose of getting an organ to give to someone else? Your knee-jerk reaction is absolutely not; but you need the ethical analysis of that to show why and how that is something that you need to stay away from.

I think that bioethics is one of the most important, evolving fields that we have. Because, as science gets more and more sophisticated, and as the opportunities for transforming biological sciences occur, we’re going to be faced with more and more important ethical questions. And we can’t approach that by the seat of our pants. We have to have experts who study that and make that a career of analyzing the kinds of ethical issues and gaining experience so that when people come in, and they’re faced with a question of ethics in the biological sciences, at least you have a cadger of people who pay serious attention to that.


Recorded On: July 6, 2007