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In the wake of progress

Published: 30 Nov 2000

The Ethical Canary, just published by McGill ethicist Dr. Margaret Somerville, examines contemporary issues like cloning, euthanasia and scarce medical resources, concluding that scientific progress must be accompanied by moral and ethical progress.

"The Ethical Canary" dissects the implications of medical technology

Constant advances in medical technology are making it possible to manipulate the body and its components in ways that werenÂ’t even considered a few decades ago. But as options grow, so do the questions - should we do things just because we can? At what point must our individual choices make way for the communal good? How do we decide?

These difficult and controversial questions are at the heart of The Ethical Canary, the newest book from Dr. Margaret Somerville, founding Director of the McGill Centre for Medecine, Ethics and Law. Dr. Somerville explores these questions by looking at contemporary issues like cloning, euthanasia, xenotransplantation, and the allocation of scarce medical resources. While she concludes that some uses of the new technoscience are inherently wrong - for instance, human cloning - on the whole she supports the cautious application of technology once the larger ramifications have been examined and understood.

"We must remember also that in choosing our values, attitudes and beliefs, we are choosing not only for ourselves as individuals, but also for our world...Scientific progress alone would be a hollow victory without the moral and ethical progress that must accompany it."
- From The Ethical Canary

Originally from Australia, Dr. Somerville has been a professor at McGill since 1978 and a member of the Quebec bar since 1982. She holds the Samuel Gale Chair in the Faculty of Law, and is also a professor in the Faculty of Medicine. She is a leader in the development of bioethics worldwide, is widely published, and has been a guest speaker at numerous international conferences on ethical and legal aspects of science and society.

On Monday, December 4 at 6 pm, McGill University will be celebrating the launch of The Ethical Canary in the Atrium of the Faculty of Law located at 3644 Peel St.

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