Mini-brains May Already Be Sentient and Suffering, Scientists Warn.
Bioethicists often refer to four basic ethical principles when evaluating the merits and difficulties of medical procedures and research – autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence. Ideally, for a medical practice to be considered ethical, it must respect all four principles.
One of the challenges facing medical researchers as new frontiers are opened is that “we don’t really know actually where this is all going,” says Patricia Churchland, a Salk Institute professor emerita who studies the linkage between philosophy and neuroscience. “It’s very, very difficult to predict the future in science, as in baseball.” What happens when you’re not sure whether the research you’re doing is breaching one or more of the bio-ethics principles?
In response to concerns that neuroscientists are “perilously close” to crossing serious ethical lines by experimenting with mini–brains (tiny lumps of tissue capable of generating rudimentary neural activity) that might be complex enough to feel pain, there are calls for a clearer definition of consciousness and the establishment of guidelines to stop experiments before they effectively create new way for beings to suffer.
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Big Think, 23 October 2019