Rise of the Planet of the Apes – a bioethical feast

December 31, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, now available on DVD, was one of the blockbuster releases in the summer of 2011. A prequel to the classic series of films (5 cinema releases between 1968 and 1973, TV spin-off and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of the main Planet of the Apes), the new movie tries to offer a plausible mechanisms for the evolution of apes into a dominant global force.

(Warning: contains spoilers!) The new film is a veritable gold-mine for discussion of ethical topics, it would make as excellent vehicle for an engaging “film night”. In terms of bioethical issues, the film touches on all of the following:

  • Research ethics – there are lots of examples where aspects of the conduct of research are raised (some of which are picked out specifically in the list below). The motivations for doing research are touched upon at several points in the film – these include financial gain, fame and a desire to do good, both for mankind in general and specifically for the benefit of a relative in need. GenSys boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) is the embodiment of profit as a driver for research whereas Will Rodman (James Franco) represents more noble aspirations. A discussion of the ethics of research funding could follow naturally. Read the rest of this entry »
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Animal Research – Monkeys, Rats and Me

October 8, 2007

In the spring of 2004, work started on the new Oxford University Biomedical research laboratory, which would be partially used for animal experimentation. From the very first day of construction, the site was bombarded with verbal abuse and relentless physical damage to machinery, offices and supplies by animal rights protestors. This subsequently forced the building work to be halted for 18 months. Monkeys, Rats and Me, a documentary commissioned by the BBC, joins the story when construction is restarted in November 2005, and follows the activities of those who campaign for and against the use of animals in medical experimentations. The site of the new facility had become the epicentre for a grand battle between the two polar views of experiments on animals. On the one side you have those who wish for total abolishment of vivisection and on the other there are those who see animal experimentation as an essential tool for advancing science and developing new cures. The narrator suggests that this dispute revolves around the central ethical question of whether “the benefits to patients justify the harms to the animals”. To address this, the documentary attempts to see if animal experimentation works and even, if it does, “is it ethical?” Read the rest of this entry »