Bioethics, sex, and cloning
Imagine a crew embarked upon a privately-funded interplanetary mission sometime in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Four months after launch, Dr. Steele, the crew medical officer (CMO) performs his weekly examination of each crewmember and discovers that Danny Preston, the flight engineer has a terminal illness. The crew is still three months from arriving at their destination with no abort capability. What would they do? Should Preston be allowed to continue as a functioning crewmember, using up valuable life support consumables, all the while knowing he is going to die? Should Preston sacrifice his life for the greater good of the mission? Does the commander even give Preston a choice? And what happens when Preston dies? Does the crew store his body until they return to Earth, do they bury it on the planet, or do they simply flush it through the airlock? Questions like these, and many more, must be answered before a crew departs on an Exploration Class Mission (ECM). While science fiction has explored some of these questions, it probably isn’t a good idea to rely on science fiction as a template for bioethical policy. But, before we start discussing what bioethical policy space agencies might adopt to deal with ‘who gets thrown from the lifeboat’ type scenarios, it’s worth understanding what bioethics is.