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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

ISSN Print: 1050-6934
ISSN Online: 1940-4379

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

DOI: 10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.v17.i3.80
pages 263-269

Importance of a Midterm Time Horizon for Addressing Ethical Issues Integral to Nanobiotechnology

George Khushf
Center for Bioethics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina


There is a consensus emerging on the importance of upstream ethical engagement in nanobiotechnology. Such a preventive ethic would anticipate downstream concerns that might arise and mitigate them as part of the research and development process. However, there is an unappreciated tension between the time horizon of upstream ethics and that assumed by most bioethical research. Current standards of high-quality research on ethical issues biases the research in favor of near-term, science-based, results-oriented work. A near-term focus would miss many of the important ethical issues integral to nanobiotechnology and undermine the goals integral to upstream ethical engagement. However, if we move to a far-term time horizon, the ethical debates tend to get too speculative and are no longer disciplined by existing research trajectories. This paper addresses the link between the midterm time horizon necessary for upstream ethics and the form, content, and style of ethical reflection. New paradigm cases, standards, and criteria will be needed for high-quality upstream ethics work in the area of nanobiotechnology.