Synthetic Biology

June 12, 2013

This year’s winner of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ Box Office Bioethics video competition was produced by Marylka Griffiths from the University of Warwick.


For more on the topic, please see this Bioethicsbytes review of Horizon: Playing God.


Three-parent IVF and Mitochondrial Diseases

June 12, 2013
The report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics was produced in 2012

The report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics was produced in 2012

In the past year, two major reports have been published concerning the ethics of “three-parent IVF”, in which a donated egg would be used to overcome disease arising from the small amount of genetic material found within mitochondria, the energy factories of the cell.

The first report Novel techniques for the prevention of mitochondrial DNA disorders: an ethical review was produced by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (June 2012) – see summary of key findings.

In March 2013 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published their Advice to Government on Mitochondria replacement.

Both reports were largely in favour of the development. For examples of arguments against the technique see, for example, this post by the Christian Medical Fellowship.

A short animated video on the topic has been produced by second year students at the University of Leicester.

Ethics of Organ Donation

April 25, 2013

Activities to teach about the ethics of donation of bodies for medicine and research are the latest resources developed by the Education Advisory Group

It’s about 18 months since the release of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics reports on the donation of human bodies for medicine and research. In the intervening period the Council’s Secretariat and Education Advisory Group (of which I am a member) have been refining a series of resources for teaching about the ethics of human tissue usage.

On this occasion the resources have been targeted primarily for students at KS4 (GCSE).  The materials have, however, been provided in both PDF and Word formats precisely to allow for adaptation should anyone wish to use them in a slightly different context. Issues covered include: terminology, altruistic donation, prioritisation of different uses of human tissue, and an intervention ladder to determine how best to increase the shortfall in available organs in an ethically-appropriate way.

Biofuels: ethical issues

December 12, 2011

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recently added a guide for teaching about the ethical issues associated with the use of biofuels. In keeping with other recent resources produced by the education team, the new teaching materials draw their inspiration and focus from one of the authoritative reports written by the main Council Members and seconded experts. In this instance a two-lesson outline for students at Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) and above has been developed from the 2011 report Biofuels: ethical issues.

The structures activities on biofuels are the fifth resources developed specifically for teachers and lecturers

The first lesson uses a series of case studies to introduce a variety of potential biofuels and the advantages and disadvantages that each presents.

The second lesson involves the students in role play, to consider the question into the question “Should the UK increase the amount of biofuels it imports and if so what should be the rules for biofuels production?”


Ethical issues in Dementia

March 18, 2011

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics produces authoritative reports on issues of ethical importance. Reaching Out to Young People committee (of which I am a member) aims to produce teaching resources to accompany the production of some of these reports. Most recently, we have released some materials to help students (particularly A level students) to explore Ethical Issues associated with Dementia. These resources are available via the Nuffield website.

Forensic use of bioinformation

January 7, 2011

Established in 1991, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has earned a reputation for production of authoritative reports of ethical issues raised by a variety of current and emerging technologies in biomedicine and bioscience.

The quality and depth of analysis of the Nuffield reports means that they are rather too ‘chunky’ for most GCSE and A level students to negotiate. Over the last couple of years the Council’s Reaching Out to Young People committee (of which I am a member) has begun to produce educational resources to offer some of the key curriculum-relevant content of the larger reports in a more teenager-friendly format.

The forensic use of bioinformation resources are derived from the Council’s 2007 report of the same name. The resources include curriculum links, lesson plans, teaching notes, activity sheets, background information and quizzes. We hope you find them useful.