SITE VISIT: Weighing In on Bioethics

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Science  23 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5414, pp. 551d
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5414.551d

Cloning, assisted suicide, managed health care—these and other ethical hot-button issues show no sign of fading from public debate. To get up to speed, check out The Bioethics Internet Project. “Ours is the most visited of the primary bioethics sites,” claims project director Glenn McGee of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics. “We take that pretty seriously.”

One innovative item on the 5-year-old site is a joint project with the NBC television drama ER. Each week, a center master's student gets an advance copy of the upcoming episode and dissects it in an online essay. The site also has links to scholarly journals, including Penn's own American Journal of Bioethics. A section on assisted suicide presents legal documents from a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, an online roundtable discussion, and related Web links. An especially popular feature is “Bioethics for Beginners,” which offers a historical introduction to medical bioethics and a list of papers and Web sites for students and teachers. According to McGee, “Genetic engineering is now the topic for high school debate classes.”

The Bioethics Project doesn't stake out positions on issues, says McGee, but center faculty members do post their own strong viewpoints. “Some bioethics sites are funded by large companies,” he notes, “but the center is independent. In bioethics, conflict of interest is everything.”

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