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Ethics and Population

From: Hastings Center Report
Volume 39, Number 3, May-June 2009
pp. 11-13 | 10.1353/hcr.0.0142



This year marks The Hastings Center’s fortieth anniversary. These essays examine the four core issues that the early Center identified as its domain. Cofounder Daniel Callahan takes up population control, noting that the concern has shifted from overpopulation to underpopulation, but that the central issue remains—respect for procreative freedom and recognition of its profound social effects. Writing on behavioral control, cofounder Willard Gaylin recalls that this issue arose alongside early discoveries about the brain-behavior link and the desire to find ways to modify undesirable behavior, causing a reassessment of what is “normal.” Robert Veatch, among the Center’s first staff members, discusses death and dying—including the ongoing controversy over defining death. Thomas Murray, president, revisits the Center’s work on ethical issues in human genetics. Though that work began in 1971, when genetic counseling was in its infancy and genetic engineering was unheard of, Murray finds it “remarkably prescient.”

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