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Perception of risks and benefits of in vitro fertilization, genetic engineering and biotechnology

  • Macer, Darryl R.J.
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    The use of new biotechnology in medicine has become an everday experience, but many people still express concern about biotechnology. Concerns are evoked particularly by the phrases genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), and these concerns persist despite more than a decade of their use in medicine. Mailed nationwide opinion surveys on attitudes to biotechnology were conducted in Japan, among samples of the public (N = 551), high school biology teachers (N = 228), scientists (N = 555) and nurses (N = 301). People do see more benefits coming from science than harm when balanced against the risks. There were especially mixed perceptions of benefit and risk about IVF and genetic engineering, and a relatively high degree of worry compared to other developments of science and technology. A discussion of assisted reproductive technologies and surrogacy in Japan is also made. The opinions of people in Japan were compared to the results of previous surveys conducted in Japan, and international surveys conducted in Australia, China, Europe, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A. Japanese have a very high awareness of biotechnology, 97% saying that they had heard of the word. They also have a high level of awareness of IVF and genetic engineering. Genetic engineering was said to be a worthwhile research area for Japan by 76%, while 58% perceived research on IVF as being worthwhile, however 61% were worried about research on IVF or genetic engineering. Japanese expressed more concern about IVF and genetic engineering than New Zealanders. The major reason cited for rejection of genetic manipulation research in Japan and New Zealand was that it was seen as interfering with nature, playing God or as unethical. The emotions concerning these technologies are complex, and we should avoid using simplistic public opinion data as measures of public perceptions. The level of concern expressed by scientists and teachers in Japan suggest that public education "technology promotion campaigns" will not reduce concern about science and technology. Such concern should be valued as discretion that is basic to increasing the bioethical maturity of a society, rather than being feared.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 38 (1994)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 23-33

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:38:y:1994:i:1:p:23-33
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