The bioethics of security. Editorial.


This special issue of Bioethics is premised on the belief that there is a growing need to expand the concern of traditional bioethics to include the nature and consequences of the application of biological research and biotechnology to issues of human security. The nexus of ethics, the life sciences and security involve two different, although sometimes overlapping, areas of concern. First, there are issues that arise from efforts to apply the findings of biological research and biotechnology to enhance human security. Second, there are security concerns that relate to the consequences of biological research, biotechnology, and naturally occurring events. In selecting the papers for this issue, we have aimed to provide an overview and analysis of both these areas in order to make visible a range of differences and continuities in the ethico-political matters that arise in each area – variously, matters of privacy, liberty, justice, equality, confidentiality, accountability, and data protection. We have also sought to show the varieties of ways in which this terrain is being crossed through an interdisciplinary selection of studies, drawing together works from philosophy, surveillance and security studies, and sociology, including the sociology of science. Substantively, the papers that follow address three broad areas. These include: the application of biometric technologies for the verification of identity in the control of movement and access to public and private services; the use of genetic information in the detection and prevention of crime, including research into aggressive behaviour; and the myriad consequences of infectious disease research, including the responsibilities of life scientists for the dual-use implications of their work. Michael Selgelid and Christian Enemark evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of ‘securitizing’ HIV/AIDS. They stress the importance of distinguishing between two empirical questions: whether or not HIV/AIDS constitutes an actual security threat (i.e. whether or not it endangers social stability and/or a country’s military) and, if so, whether that necessarily requires emergency response measures. Sabina Gainotti, Nicola Moran, Carlo Petrini and Darren Shickle provide a comparative overview of European policies on communicable disease and conclude that whilst national policies are quite heterogeneous, they are underpinned by several clear models. They conclude by positing several ethical requirements for communicable disease policies. Frida Kuhlau, Stefan Eriksson, Kathinka Evers and Anna Hoglund address the demand on life scientists to consider the potential security implications of dual-use research. The authors propose five criteria for what can be considered to constitute preventable harm and then set these criteria against stated ethical obligations for life scientists. The authors suggest that scientists have a duty to consider the potential negative implications of their research, to safeguard access to sensitive material, technology and knowledge and to report activities of concern. They conclude that many proposed obligations for the life science community are reasonable but not unconditionally so. Addressing biometric technologies, Emilo Mordini and Sonia Massari examine the issues of ‘function creep’ and the ‘informatization of the body’. The authors highlight what they consider to be a neglected point in the literature: that there can be no benefit or entitlement without identification; nor is it the case that personal identification technologies per se threaten civil liberties. They argue that the benefits of a global system for personal identification are likely to be more akin to the Internet than to the Leviathan. Similarly, David Lyon reviews some of the issues around biometric technologies from a surveillance studies viewpoint. Lyon argues that biometrics rely on a contested and reductionist definition of the body (i.e. the mere physical body) and that designers of biometric systems ought to incorporate greater sensitivity to the lived experience of the body, something akin to Ricoeur’s ‘self-attesting body’. Both of these papers are concerned with the uses of the life sciences to enhance security through the validation of identities. However, two other papers discuss the ethical and policy implications of recent developments in genetic biotechnology that offer novel contributions to crime control in democratic societies – in the first case by predicting the behavioural characteristics of known individuals, and in the second by predicting the physical appearance of unidentified persons. Elisa Pieri and Mairi Levitt address some of the policy implications of genetic research on ‘aggressiveness’. Interrogating the views of legal and criminal justice professionals, they argue that the incorporation of genetic susceptibility information into existing legal practices is highly problematic and reinforces contested discourses over who is deemed to be labelled as a risk. Finally Amade M’charek reviews the implications of growing efforts to determine phenotype from genotype in biological samples recovered from Bioethics ISSN 0269-9702 (print); 1467-8519 (online) Volume 22 Number 9 2008 pp ii–iii

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00701.x

Cite this paper

@article{Williams2008TheBO, title={The bioethics of security. Editorial.}, author={Robin J. R. Williams and Michael Barr and Erica Haimes}, journal={Bioethics}, year={2008}, volume={22 9}, pages={ii-iii} }