Ethics category – Utilitarianism
From the perspective of the researchers and consumers, utilitarian ethics is satisfied for the development of new drugs or treatment to combat diseases or illness. Because such development is meant for the greater good of the human race and new drugs or treatments could potentially eradicate a disease, for example, smallpox. As consumers are the ones who benefit from these developments eventually and therefore, their support for further progress in this area of development will also satisfy utilitarian ethics.
Utilitarian ethics is also satisfied on the action of testing of new drugs or treatments on animals for their efficacy. Because in order to be responsible to the whole community on the safety of the drugs or treatment. It has to be tested out first. It is unethical to test on humans, therefore, animals are the next best option.
Ethics category – Duty
From the perspective of the researchers and consumers, duty ethics is by large satisfied on the action of developing new drugs or treatment to combat diseases or illnesses. This is because researchers have the duty to develop and research into novel methods to combat existing diseases and illnesses.
Duty ethics is also satisfied on the action of testing of new drugs or treatments on animals for their efficacy. Researchers have the duty to ensure their research is safe for public consumption and a duty to protect their reputation in the field of research by not producing drugs that are harmful to society. Consumers on the other hand also have the duty to ensure their own safety when consuming such new drugs, therefore, it is satisfied when there is a way to test the drugs before the general public consume them.
As for the action of developing alternative methods to test for drugs or treatments such as 3D bioprinting of organ-on-chip. Duty ethics is satisfied for researchers regardless of whether it is testing on animals or other alternative methods. Furthermore, by using organ-on-chip, it is researchers’ duty to ensure that cell specimen they obtained from the public to develop organ-on-chip are kept save without leak of personal information. From the viewpoint of animal protectionists, they have the duty to push for non-animal test on drugs because if they have to use the drugs to cure their illness, they have no choice but to take the drugs and yet they do not want to test on animals.
Overall, if 3D bioprinting is to be used to develop organ-on-chip to replace animal testing on drugs and treatment. From utilitarian and duty ethics, it is supportive of such development.
Ethical issue: Human enhancement
When science fiction is no longer science fiction, the issues of 3D bioprinting will become even more relevant to us. So far in the development of 3D bioprinting, it has always dreamt of being used for regenerative or reparative purposes, such as repairing the skin of a burnt victim, or a bio-implant with the patient’s own tissue to replace the current synthetic material (Boggs, 2016). “The advent of three-dimensional (3D) printing has generated a swell of interest in artificial organs meant to replace, or even enhance, human machinery” (Ledford, 2015). When the 3D printing of hard tissues and organs such as bones, muscles and cartilages (Wang et al., 2016) and even vital organs such as brain and heart are no longer part of science fiction but part of reality. Would the enhancement of the human body beyond what is natural be ethically accepted?
Ethics category – Utilitarianism
From the perspective of the researchers, consumers and the governments, utilitarian ethics is largely satisfied. On the action of research development for the realization of 3D printing of full functioning bones and organs, utilitarian ethics is satisfied because such technology will benefit the majority of the human race provided that this technology is accessible to everyone. A full functioning organ means the elimination of the market of human organ trade and also personalized medicine for organ transplant without patient rejection rate. Utilitarian ethics is also satisfied when governments provide funding or education to encourage such development so as to benefit the general public.
On the action of making use of this technology to replace bones and organs to achieve enhancement or prolonged health (longevity beyond natural human age). Utilitarian ethics is satisfied if such technology is available to everyone. This could be seen as equal to how the advancement in medicine eradicated certain diseases and prolonged human lifespan generally. So, 3D bioprinting is just another method to achieve the same results. Utilitarian ethics is satisfied if governments make such technology available to everyone just like medication. It is not satisfied, however, if governments use this as a personalised way to continue the reign of a particular person (prolong the life of the president or the leader) or restricts this technology only to the wealthiest, most powerful group of people.