A Slippery Slope: Medicine, Technology & Bioethics

Dec 2, 2019

Merriam Webster defines ethics as “a set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral values” and “the principles of conduct that govern an individual or a group.”

Craig Klugman makes his living applying both definitions to such fields as bioethics, digital medicine, end-of-life issues, public health and research, and health policy. Klugman is a professor of bioethics and health humanities at the Department of Health Sciences at DePaul University in Chicago and the co-director of the university’s Minor in Bioethics & Society. He’s also the author of more than 450 articles, book chapters, and blog posts on bioethics.

Klugman was in Milwaukee in November to deliver the Medical College of Wisconsin’s annual medical humanities lecture. He says the field of bioethics is, or should be, at the forefront of the technology revolution in medicine. But tech moves so fast that the ethics of how the technology is used can't keep up.

"People have been struggling for the last 50 years on how to make sense of these rapid changes in technology and medicine," he says. "We're left with this question of what should we do and what should we not do. So, bioethics has arisen to have these public conversations both on a professional level and on a community level."

Klugman says thinking about the bioethical implications of technology also includes being really cautious about using commercially available products like DNA testing kits.

"These are not companies that are in the business of finding out who your family members are or what diseases you may have. They’re in the business of collecting data," he explains. "We are the product, we are not the customer. The customers are researchers and governments and data banks."