Medical Robotics Magazine

The first and only commercial feature medical robotics news magazine, founded February 2007 by John J. Otrompke, JD, consultant and publisher


Medical Robotics Magazine is the world's first and only commercial feature news magazine devoted to all aspect of the medical robotics industry- including robotic surgery, physical therapy robots, hospital orderlies, and other topics related to robotic medicine. As a feature magazine, Medical Robotics features interviews, business news, conference coverage and editorials, as well as a generous portion of articles written by noteworthy robotics surgeons as well as clinical trials reports. MR has been on-line since 2007, and first appeared in print in January of 2008 at the annual meeting of MIRA (the Minimally Invasive Robotics Association) in Rome, Italy. Medical Robotics Magazine is copyrighted, features a nascent Board of Editorial Advisors, and is indexed by the U.S. Library of Congress. All contents (c) 2011 John J. Otrompke, JD Contact: John J. Otrompke, JD 646-730-0179

Friday, May 9, 2008

Whither the Dinosaur Industry?

by John J. Otrompke, JD

Should human agency clone a dinosaur? Perhaps surprisingly, the question is not whether it is plausible to bring back the legendary giant, but whether it is desirable to do so. This essay comes to a conclusion that may surprise you.

Before I begin with a bioethical analysis, however, the most important thing I can write today is to tell anyone reading this that the a federal agency recently announced a notice and comment period, and I want absolutely everybody here to do something about it. This is not the usual agency we’re all used to dealing with, the FDA, but another one some of us don’t hear about so often, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the notice-and-comment period I’m referring to was about proposed regulations for the treatment of elephants in captivity. And the treatment of elephants, it turns out, has everything to do with whether people should clone a dinosaur (and how many).

Throughout the long history of elephants’ exploitation by humankind, there has been no act of cruelty or deprivation inflicted on elephants which was not also inflicted on humans. In fact, the similarity in the litanies is almost eerie.

So, even though the USDA some time ago closed the notice-and-comment period on elephants, they have not announced any new rules yet, so everybody reading this should nonetheless send in a respectful letter, seriously commenting on this important issue.

For What Benefit?

According to experts, scientists have recovered much of the DNA of the ancient dinosaurs. At first glance, the notion that humankind could clone dinosaurs, a phenomenon which is nearly scientifically possible, seems attractive. But why should human beings do so, assuming we could?

Is it for the dinosaur? By most reports the process of cloning a dinosaur would be long, and involve numerous errors, and many euthanized animals that had been malformed or ill-treated. Upon successful completion of this remarkable venture, what would be the result?

Would people clone one or two dinosaurs, and relegate them to a zoo? If so, it remains to be seen whether the dinosaur would be happy. It is the conclusion of this meditation that if the result were to clone simply one or more dinosaurs, who would then be unhappy, then dinosaur cloning should not take place. But some animals appear to respond to zoos differently from others.

Alternatively, perhaps a very, very large tract of the planet somewhere could be forested somewhere and set aside for dinosaurs, and other animal species, and it is this outcome that this essay hesitatingly, but seriously advocates. Otherwise, perhaps it could be an amphibian dinosaur that could be cloned and put in Lock Ness; I understand they already have problems over there in Lock Ness.

This essay takes the position that if the mission were to clone a live population of dinosaurs, who would then be permitted to repopulate sustainably, then that would be a benefit to the dinosaurs. Doing this is an interesting idea, but I don’t think anyone is ethically obligated to do this, should it be possible.

Is it for other animal species? This essay takes the position that by cloning dinosaurs, humankind should become capable of reestablishing other extinct species, this might be a benefit to the animal species, depending on the relationship and the environmental circumstances.

Is it for humankind? Truly, the awesome project of cloning a dinosaur assumes seemingly miraculous, impossible proportions, similar to the lunar voyages. Also, beyond sheer titillation, this project would likely involve an immense expansion of human knowledge in a wide variety of realms.

But beyond pure science, does the marvelous nature of such a project accomplish anything else for people? One thing it would accomplish would be to establish the relative scarcity of impossible achievements in the university. Perhaps by accustoming human beings to such achievements, people might become accustomed to making much more immediate demands of other ventures thought unattainable, including, perhaps most notably, a nonviolent humanity, and perhaps getting it.

Is it Urgent? Perhaps because of the sorry history of human maltreatment of animals, the question of whether people ought to clone a dinosaur is close to being indeterminable, and according to philosopher William James, ethics says you shouldn’t guess in these cases, unless compelled to by circumstances. If people might some day lose the ability to clone a dinosaur, or if it might contribute to the solution of other emergencies, then people should do it.

Who Should Clone

If you conclude that people should clone a dinosaur, then who should do it? Right away, three stakeholders are ruled out: science, industry, and the federal government. Science should not be permitted to undertake this venture without input from other sources, while big business and the government lack the institutional legitimacy to do it.

Nonetheless, the scope of the venture is most comparable to that of the space missions, so perhaps it should be modeled on the NASA programs, only this time involving other countries, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nati ons.

Next Up: Nonetheless, the next essay assumes that the entity involved in cloning the dinosaur is a company, private or non-profit, and describes what the regulatory framework for such cloning should look like, as well as what regulatory framework a development company should follow.

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