Volume 9, Issue 4, Winter 2009
Debra R. Hanna, R.N.
The Moral Burdens of Biotechnology
One Nurse’s View of Patient Decision Making
Biomedical devices and biotechnological treatments are different types of health intervention. In general, biomedical devices, such as deep brain stimulators implanted for treatment of movement disorders, can help patients without imposing moral burdens. Biotechnological interventions, on the other hand, require the use of biological substances, which are often obtained by the destruction of human life or unusual tampering with it, as in embryonic stem cell research, cloning, and fetal tissue transplantation. Biotechnology imposes a moral burden on patients, who may not fully understand what it involves and the effects its use might have on them later. This essay is a reflection on the serious losses patients experience before they consider biotechnological options and on their sense of moral burden after they have consented to their use. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 9.4 (Winter 2009): 671–679.