By Caroline Song

Richard Adhikari of TechNewsWorld, has written an article titled “Bioprinting, Part 2 – The Ethical Conundrum” where he voices raising concerns in the face of medical improvement. Within the United States, around 120,000 individuals are on a waiting list for an organ transplant. However, the amount of donors is low and there are concerns about the quality of life post-transplant. The hope is that 3D printing could be used for transplants and would eradicate both the waiting list and the need for immunosuppressive therapy. Although we may be several years from this type of therapy coming into fruition, the idea sparks several ethical concerns:

1. Money. 3D printing therapy can be expensive, especially if it is being used to build a complex, functioning organs. This suggests that having this therapy available could widen the inequality gap, leaving only those with the ability to pay to skip lines and fund an organ free of an immunosuppression regime, whereas those without money are left on waiting lists.

2. Biology versus technology. This is the concern where something that works within a laboratory environment will not necessarily work in the marketplace. A secondary concern with this is how the new technology will be divvied up and whether we will adopt current practices, such as favoring the young over the aging populations.

3. Clinical trails. With many of the new, emerging technologies comes the need to run clinical trials with human subjects. The fear is that individuals who are in dire need of help will turn to clinical trials without fully understanding the risk associated with them. The therapeutic misconception with clinical trails causes individuals to see the trails as actual healthcare, when it is not. Trials boasting a new technology could be preying upon a vulnerable population, especially those who are vying to get off the waiting list.

4. Current rules and regulations are in place to help protect patients when exposed to new technologies.

5. The use of 3D printing could be used as a way to enhance an individual either for personal satisfaction or to gain a competitive, athletic edge.

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