Towards a Richer Debate on Tissue Engineering: A Consideration on the Basis of NEST-Ethics
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In their 2007 paper, Swierstra and Rip identify characteristic tropes and patterns of moral argumentation in the debate about the ethics of new and emerging science and technologies (or “NEST-ethics”). Taking their NEST-ethics structure as a starting point, we considered the debate about tissue engineering (TE), and argue what aspects we think ought to be a part of a rich and high-quality debate of TE. The debate surrounding TE seems to be predominantly a debate among experts. When considering the NEST-ethics arguments that deal directly with technology, we can generally conclude that consequentialist arguments are by far the most prominently featured in discussions of TE. In addition, many papers discuss principles, rights and duties relevant to aspects of TE, both in a positive and in a critical sense. Justice arguments are only sporadically made, some “good life” arguments are used, others less so (such as the explicit articulation of perceived limits, or the technology as a technological fix for a social problem). Missing topics in the discussion, at least from the perspective of NEST-ethics, are second “level” arguments—those referring to techno-moral change connected to tissue engineering. Currently, the discussion about tissue engineering mostly focuses on its so-called “hard impacts”—quantifiable risks and benefits of the technology. Its “soft impacts”—effects that cannot easily be quantified, such as changes to experience, habits and perceptions, should receive more attention.
KeywordsHard and soft impacts of technology NEST-ethics Tissue engineering
The research for this contribution was funded by the European Commission (EuroSTEC: EU contract LSHB-CT-2006-037409).
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