Policy ForumEthics

Ethics: A Weapon to Counter Bioterrorism

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Science  25 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5717, pp. 1881-1882
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109279

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Unprecedented advances in the life sciences and the potential for the misuse of the scientific enterprise for bioterrorism or biowarfare have created a pressing need for an international consensus on the steps that must be taken to reduce this grave threat to humanity. Counterbioterrorism measures must include providing ethical guidance--especially for scientists, physicians, scientific institutions, and others engaged in research and development in the life sciences throughout the world. In this Policy Forum, an ethical code is proposed that captures the essential aspiration that research and development in the life sciences will seek to do no harm and, where possible, to benefit humankind; extends the prohibitions of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) to the broader scientific research community; specifies actions that scientists and others must take to protect against the misuse of biological agents and dual-use information; and addresses areas of contentious research by incorporating ethics and safety reviews.