Clemson University Hosts International Bioethics Conference

September 26, 1997

CLEMSON -- Cloning, genetic screening and animal research are only a few of the topics to be debated when Clemson University hosts the first International Conference on Ethical Issues in Biomedical Engineering Sept. 27-29.

Up to 130 researchers, physicians and ethicists from around the globe are expected to attend the conference.

"Biomedical engineering has been largely responsible for many of the advances in modern medicine -- but biomedical technology has also created new ethical dilemmas and challenged some of our moral values," said conference leader Subrata Saha, a Clemson bioengineering professor who chairs the ethics committee of a national engineering organization.

"It's vital that we take a hard look at these issues, particularly since most aren't covered in an engineering curriculum," said Saha, who heads the Bioengineering Alliance of South Carolina. "Too often, we as engineers are more comfortable dealing with plastics than patients.

"Some of the issues are clear, some aren't -- but we at least want our students to be aware of the consequences of many of the things they do," he said.

While panel sessions have been held on specific topics at biomedical conferences, this is the first time that a whole conference will be devoted to these important issues.

"Scientific and technological advances often intersect with the rights and interests of human beings in profound ways," said Daniel Wueste, a Clemson philosophy professor and conference speaker. "There is no guarantee, however, that there will not be a wreck at such an intersection. Knowing this -- having, in fact, learned the lesson the hard way at Tuskegee and elsewhere -- we have to act to diminish the danger.

"There is an ethical dimension to scientific and technological activity that we ignore at our peril," he said.

Allocation of scarce resources, clinical trials of new devices and implants, confidentiality and conflict of interest will also be discussed at the conference. The formal session opens at 8:30 a.m. Sunday with welcoming remarks by Clemson President Constantine Curris. Keynote addresses will be given at 8:45 a.m. Sunday by Jeffrey Kahn, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Ethics, and at 8:30 a.m. Monday by George Bugliarello, chancellor, Polytechnic University of Brooklyn, N.Y. All sessions will be held on campus at the Madren Continuing Education and Conference Center.

Clemson, the leading land-grant institution in South Carolina, boasts one of the nation's oldest bioengineering programs.

The ethics conference immediately precedes the 21st annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics, which is also being held at Clemson. Between 250 and 325 people are expected to attend the Sept. 24-27 gathering.

Conference co-sponsors include the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, the Bioengineering Alliance of South Carolina, Greenville Hospital System-Clemson University Cooperative, Carolina Orthopaedic Research Foundation, Clemson University College of Engineering and Science, the bioengineering department and the philosophy-religion department. Co-sponsoring companies include Anderson Area Medical Center, Howmedica Inc., TMJ Implants Inc. and Biomet Inc.

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Clemson University

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