Bioengagement - Spring 2014

No items found.
No items found.
Back to Dignitas Issue

The promise and perils of advances in technology, science, and medicine have long been fodder for creative works in literature and cinema.Consequently, a variety of resources exist exploring the realm of medical humanities as well as those providing in-depth analysis of a given cultural medium or particular artifact. This column seeks to offer a more expansive listing of contemporary expressions of bioethical issues in the popular media(fiction, film, and television)—with minimal commentary—to encompass a wider spectrum of popular culture. It will be of value to educators and others for conversations in the classroom, over a cup of coffee, at a book club, or around the dinner table. Readers are cautioned that these resources represent a wide spectrum of genres and content, and thus may not be appropriate for all audiences. For more comprehensive databases of the various cultural media, please visit our website at you have a suggestion for us to include in the future, send us a note at



Stephen Polansky, TheBradbury Report: A Novel

(Weinstein, 2010).

Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide, HealthcareEthics, Human Cloning, Organ Trafficking, Personhood.

Pseudonymous chronicle of Raymond Bradbury, a retired teacher in New England, who encounters his copy (Alan)—a human clone who has been created as part of the U.S. government’s solution to the developing healthcare crisis by creating a ready supply of spare organs. Ray’s copy is the first known escapee from the heavily guarded government cloning farms, and Ray is brought into a conspiracy to help Alan evade government capture.


Philip Reeve, Fever Crumb Series

           FeverCrumb (Scholastic, 2009).

           Web ofAir (Scholastic, 2011).

           Scrivener’sMoon (Scholastic, 2012).

Genetic Engineering, Human Enhancement, Nanotechnology, Neuroethics, Personhood.

An expected tetralogy, the first three volumes follow FeverCrumb, a once-thought orphan who is trained as the first female engineer in afar distant post-apocalyptic, steampunk future. The novels are set some thousand years after nuclear war has reshaped the physical world and destroyed human civilization, a world in which 21st  century technology has become “old tech” that exists only through the maintenance of the pseudo-scientist guild of engineers and the less scientifically inclined technomancers. The protagonist, Fever Crumb, finds herself on a journey of self-discovery as she learns of her half-Scriven ancestry, and realizes that she is the sole remaining descendent of an enhanced humanoid race. Her journey woven through the sociopolitical conflicts that result from an immense technological undertaking, leads her beyond the biotechnological inventions of her grandfather Auric Godshawk to the origins of the Scriven as a race.


Veronica Roth, Insurgent

(Katherine Tegen Books, 2012).

Emerging Technology, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Research Ethics.

In this second volume of the Divergent trilogy, Tris Prior and other survivors of the simulation war struggle to resist the growing dominance of the Erudite faction and their Dauntless supporters. Meanwhile Tris uncovers a secret that others are dying to protect—a secret that may change the future of the factions and the basis of their whole society in post-apocalypticChicago—and may expose the true nature of what it means to be divergent.


Veronica Roth, Allegiant

(Katherine Tegen Books, 2013).

Emerging Technology, Human Enhancement, InformedConsent, Neuroethics, Research Ethics.

The final volume of the Divergent trilogy follows Tris Prior as she leads a band of former faction members outside of the city walls to learn more about the nature of the divergent and the secret to the city’s original development. What she finds instead is a government operated facility, the primary purpose of which is to facilitate massive social engineering experiments.


Neal Stephenson, SnowCrash

(Bantam Spectra, 1992).

Artificial Intelligence, Neuroethics, HumanEnhancement, Virtual Reality.

Classic Cyberpunk novel located in a futuristic Los Angeles that is now governed by multinational corporations and private investor empires. Stephenson first coined the notion of a virtual reality “metaverse” int his sci-fi classic, which is being threatened by a cyber-drug referred to as“Snow Crash” that impacts reality as well. Hacker Hiro Protagonist uncovers this conspiracy that weaves together a literary tour de force drawing from archeology, computer science, cryptography, history, linguistics, philosophy, and religion.