The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Ethical discourse in biological anthropology: Some things borrowed, something new


Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Thursday 3:45-4:00, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Professional ethical codes provide a framework for informed choices. They generally set forth broad guidelines or a common consensus for behavior of practitioners. Professional codes are derived from theories of applied ethics and general principles that have been discussed for well over a hundred years. Biological anthropologists have borrowed extensively from these discussions and from other disciplines in establishing a code of ethical conduct for our discipline. Our framework is derived from the major ethical documents of our time: Nuremburg, Helsinki, NIH, CIOMS, the Belmont Report and numerous United Nations documents. The current AAPA code of ethics derives in large part from the American Anthropological Association code of ethics. But does this document serve our current needs? We are at a point in the evolution of our discipline where we need to do more than integrate the ethics of closely allied disciplines such as archaeology, animal behavior and medical research. For example, bioethics is a vital component of our ethical discussion since its principles define the ways in which we engage with human subjects both as individuals and as populations. Emerging technologies, such as those in genetics, population databases and biobanks are leading to a redefinition of both informed consent and privacy. We also need to review ethical discussions of professionals who are not necessarily traditionally aligned with biological anthropology such as archivists, librarians and museum curators as we seek to codify our obligations with respect to collections of materials and the sharing of data.

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