Discuss the bioethics illuminated in Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley had the idea for her novel from a visit to a medical school where she saw new electrical experiments on the human body. She was interested in the idea of creating life and what the ramifications might be. She saw that bioethics were very important.

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There is a story that the author of Frankenstein went along with her father to see the "experiments" at a medical centre in the city when medical knowledge was still very limited. The idea of electrical impulses in the body (even just after death) was very new. The story goes that she got the idea for the novel of Frankenstein when she saw the eyelid of a corpse twitch on the examnation table! She began to get interested in the idea of trying to create life and what the ramifications and issues might be. In a way, she was ahead of her time in perceiving that bioethics are very important. Contingencies must be made for when things don't go to schedule, get out of control or are "used" or manipulated by the powerful ie the rich against the innocent or poor. Ethnic, gender,racial and selective cleansing could all result.

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The bioethics of this novel are similar to the bioethics brought up today with such technologies as cloning and gene therapy.  In the novel, Victor Frankenstein takes for himself the power to give life.  With such technologies as I have mentioned, scientists are getting nearer to having the power to seriously change people's abilities.

In both cases, you can argue that scientists are going too far (or are in danger of doing so).  These technologies raise many questions.  For example, what are the ethics of giving a child genius level IQ because the child's parents want that?

This novel raises the question of how much scientists should tinker with the basic capabilities of mankind.

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