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Biological & Biomedical Sciences
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Bioethics of Avatar Movie (Research Paper Sample)


Organ Transplantation Readings: • Veatch, “The Definition of Death: Problems for Public Policy” • Campbell, “Harvesting the Living?: Separating ‘Brain Death’ and Organ Transplantation” • Hester, “Why We Must Leave Our Organs to Others”
Healthcare and Justice Readings: • Daniels, “Justice, Health, and Healthcare” • Pogge, “Responsibilities for Poverty-Related Ill Health” • Powers and Faden, “Social Justice, Inequality, and Systematic Disadvantage” • Ubel, “The Necessity of Rationing Healthcare
Some film ideas to get you started:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Metropolis (1926)
I am Legend
Rain Man
Island of Dr. Moreau
Jurassic Park
I am Sam
Dawn Breakers
John Q
The Constant Gardener
X-Men (particularly “the last stand”)


Bioethics of Avatar
ID No.
Bioethics of Avatar
Avatar directed by James Cameron is set in 2154 on a planet far away called Pandora. It is a planet endowed with luscious vegetation and inhabited by all manner of wondrous beasts. It is home to the Na’vi, a race of tall, blue-skinned people who are in love with Mother Nature. Humans invade this planet in search of a precious mineral. The atmosphere of Pandora is toxic to humans; they have to wear breathing masks and live in a designated human compound.
There are two kinds of relationships between humans and the Na’vi. On one side is the mining corporation led by Colonel Quaritch. Their interests lie in the rich reserves of the valuable unobtanium (its value on earth is approximately $20 billion per kg). The company employs private military contractors (mainly former Marines) for security. The military side considers the Na’vi a threat and intends to wage war against them to drive them away as they sit on the richest deposits of unobtanium. From this perspective, Avatar represents a greedy company gifted with the technology that destroys biodiversity. On the other side is the scientific community. They are interested in improving the relations with Na’vi and learning about Pandora’s biology. The scientists grow avatars, Na’vi bodies modified with human DNA, controlled by genetically matched, mentally linked human operators by way of the “the link,” an elaborate chamber that connects the human brain to the Na’vi body.
When his brother is killed in a robbery, paraplegic Marine Jake decides to take his place in a corporation to drive one of the avatars (he is a genetic match to his brother). Jake can walk again through the Avatar and falls in love with Neytiri, a Na’vi woman and is drawn into a battle of the survival of her world. Behind the magnificent shots and images and the accompanying the storyline lie plot elements involving bioethics of chimeric research, identity, morality, and genetic enhancements.
Bioethics of Chimeric Research and Human Enhancement
Chimeric Research
Avatars are human-nonhuman chimeras a creation of genetic engineering. The morality behind the creation of such chimeras has attracted much debate in the literature, creating an interest in the way Avatar treats the hybrid creatures.
The idea that chimeras are inherently repugnant, even at the embryonic level has been one of the reasons for the opposition to the creation of human-nonhuman chimeras. This perception of chimeras can be traced back to ancient Greece where legend has it that chimeras are bloodthirsty misbegotten monsters. Some people argue that such repugnant reactions can have a moral force (Schaefer, p.68). The repugnance is thought to lead to the widespread opposition to the creation of chimeras. The great visual detail in other films such as the “Fly” further the idea that such chimeras are repugnant. Such films present human-nonhuman hybrids as grotesque and their creators as despicable mad scientists.
On the contrary, Avatar diverts from such negative depiction of human-nonhuman hybrids. The Avatars, like the rest of Pandora, are quite beautiful and not physically disgusting. Like the Na’vi, they are graceful and appealing. Also, their creators are inquisitive, earnest and in the end realize the virtues of the Na’vi cause; they are not mad scientists.
The initial opposition to chimeras seems not to be based on a real moral insight but instead on an old image. Avatar provides a valid reason to ignore the preconceived notions about chimeras, opening an avenue to view a gentler picture of hybrids in popular culture. The popularity of Avatar provides hope...

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