The Ethics of Biowarfare

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The Ethics (moral principle) of Biowarfare
Daniel Reyes
articlehighlights
Nations need to take preventative measures to curb the development and proliferation of biological and chemical weapons, such as: * adopting a scientific code of ethics
* incorporating ethics into graduate science courses
* formulating accountability mechanisms for research
* raising academic, industry, and public awareness of ethical issues

Introduction: A Modern Day Trojan Horse
* The 2001 anthrax scare in the U.S. brought the biowarfare issue to the fore. * Although the envelope resembled a letter from a fourth grade student, the contents addressed to U.S. Senator Tom Daschle were life threatening. Laced within the envelope was a form of the bacteria known as Bacillus Anthracis, bacteria more commonly known as anthrax. When exposed to humans, an anthrax infection leads to the release of toxins, which if not properly treated are fatal.1 Around the same time of Senator Daschle’s threat, other cases of anthrax exposure were publicized. Through these events, the public was introduced to a new terror — chemical and biological weapons. * Chemical and biological weapons are called “the poor man’s atomic bomb.” * Some call such weaponry “the poor man’s atomic bomb” — its construction is cheaper and its effects are potentially as far-reaching and devastating. The ability to manufacture chemical or biological threats is relatively much easier and its availability more widespread that nuclear weapons. Because of this, many believe any future terrorist attacks might include biological/chemical weapons similar to anthrax. Though seemingly a new threat, similar weaponry has been the subject of debate for decades.

1) The organism, called _Bacillus Anthracis,_ is grown in the lab. 2) Removed from a nutrient-rich environment, the bacteria turns into spores, which naturally clump together. 3) Spores are purified, separated, and concentrated. 4) Spores are combined with fine dust particles to maintain separation and increase time they can suspend in the air. 5) The powdery mixture is put into an envelope. 6) When released into the air, a high concentration of spores can be drawn deep into the lungs. The spores return to their bacteria state and a rapidly developing anthrax infection releases deadly toxins. (cnn.com)

Biological/chemical weaponry overview
Such weapons can involve organisms that carry disease or toxic substances. “Biological warfare is the intentional use of disease-causing microorganisms or other entities that can replicate themselves (e.g., viruses, infectious nucleic acids and prions) against humans, animals or plants for hostile purposes. It may also involve the use of toxins: poisonous substances produced by living organisms…plants…and animals. If they are utilized for warfare purpose, the synthetically manufactured counterparts of these toxins are biological weapons.”2 Delivery of such substances can be as easy as sending it via mail, as in the anthrax example, or as sophisticated as mounting a chemical warhead onto a missile. Other possible means of delivery include introducing a substance to a water supply or through air dispersal in the form of gas. As far back as the 6th century BC, warring nations have been involved with the use of biological weaponry.3 Despite its long history, it is perhaps best to look at more recent events. Biological warfare was used as far back as the 6th century BC. * With the better understanding of disease in the 20th century, various forms of chemical and biological weaponry emerged. For example, during World War I, poisonous gases were used4 in addition to anthrax applications by German operatives.2 * Even more recently, radical groups have implemented various chemical agents with the intent of mass destruction. For example, in addition to the anthrax threat, in March of 1995, a nerve gas called sarin was released in a subway system of Japan.5 In such cases, it...
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