Ethical issues raised by the use of biological materials are numerous and so complex that an entire field of study known as bioethics has been created.
Will the biomaterial be safe or potentially be harmful to the body in the near term and long term? Will data obtained during testing on animals justify the suffering and sacrifice of living creatures? Will professional and financial interests by researchers result in conflicts of interest which could taint trial data? Should supply and demand, and profit, allow biomaterials companies to charge "what the market will bear"? When evaluating a new biomaterial product what should be the balance between sustaining life versus quality of life issues? What should be the role of regulatory agencies? Should access to biomaterials be determined by medical need or ability to pay? How does society ensure that humans living in the Third World have access to current advances in biomaterial applications? How does society balance scientific advancements in the area of biomaterials with religious doctrines, which are sometimes at odds with those advancements?
Clearly, we could spend another course just on the topic of ethics in biomaterials. Hopefully, the reading in the lesson and on the website has made you aware, if you were not already, of this important subject. In the next section of our website, we will be looking at a biomaterial which is also a smart material.