An example of linking science-society

Opinion Column
By Aldo Delgado, CEFOP researcher.

On July 25, 1978 at 11:47 p.m. Louis Joy Brown was born. An event that we could say that is common considering that the global rate of births in that year was 18 births per 1000 people on a planet with 4301 billions of inhabitants. However, it is not. Louis Brown was the first-test tube baby in the world (Letter to the Editor in Lancet, 1978, 2:366).By 1983 the number of test-tube babies skirted the 150. Today there are nearly 4 million people who are born with the development and refinement of techniques in-vitro fertilization.

This year, Dr. Robert Edwards has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the development of in vitro fertilization for the treatment of human infertility, a condition that affects more than 10% of couples in the world. Despite the ethical questions early in vitro fertilization by religious leaders, who considered in vitro fertilization morally wrong, governments interested in population control, or their own peers worried about the safety of the embryos during process, Dr. Edwards was able to realize his vision of creating strict scientific and ethical codes which is based on what we now call for Reproductive Medicine.

Dr. Edwards’s work was not easy. Recall that during the decades of 60 and 70 the ghost of overpopulation looming on industrialized societies, being more relevant to the problems of infertility. In the words of Edwards “was not aware of the personal pain caused by infertility.” Moreover, eminent scientists of the time argued that it was irresponsible to interfere with the beginning of life. Today we can not abstract from the effects of in vitro fertilization in our society. In vitro fertilization and its study have increased our knowledge in biology and medicine has generated an intense but inconclusive, debate on ethics, has led to the enactment of new laws, and has even manifested in the arts.

The case of in vitro fertilization clearly illustrates that scientific activity can not be separated from social events. As scientists we must consider the contribution to the knowledge of our own research and its impact on society. This reflection must necessarily include social, ethical and moral and transcend beyond the purely economic analysis, productivity or quantification.



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