January 12, 2020

"3D Printing and the Murky Ethics of Replicating Bones."

At Real Clear Science.

Is it obvious to you what "murky ethics" are involved in the 3D printing of bone replicas? Click through to the article and see how long it takes to figure out the answer. The murkiness in getting to the point of what's murky in the ethics is evidence of what a sensitive problem it is.

71 comments:

Fernandistein said...

Grave robbing circumvented all those issues.

rhhardin said...

I couldn't make it to the ethical issue.

It could turn up in one of the consciousness-raising multiple choice tests employees have to take every year, though. You'd have to actually watch the video for this one. It's hard to guess what answer a social justice warrior wants a priori.

rhhardin said...

Dog Lovers' Magazine.

rhhardin said...

Speaking of artificial bones, whatever happened to corfam? If a cow got really bad burns it could be of help medically.

rhhardin said...

Cows don't fill out donor cards. That's an oversight. One cow could save the lives of eight others.

tcrosse said...

The old Europeans were more ethically lax, or perhaps murkier:
6 creepy churches made of bones

Paco Wové said...

Perhaps I am unduly insensitive, but I read the whole article and I still have no idea what the ethical issues are. Though, predictably, the controversy boils down to "white people being mean to colored people".

Paco Wové said...

"But other groups, including aboriginal communities and indigenous groups, strongly disagree, and consider data and replicas to be part of the deceased individual’s personhood."

Yes, I'm sure indigenous groups attitudes towards digital media have been passed down for centuries.

Lucid-Ideas said...

Supposedly the recent 'Thermos' test series at DARHT used miniaturized sub-critical additive manufacturing to create small 'thermos-sized' mockups of the W88 for hydrodynamic evaluation. They were sub-critical assemblies, but that doesn't detract from the fact that they did figure out a way to 3d print using radioactive materials.

But sure, 3d printing bones is a problem. Sure.

Fernandistein said...

One example is race science, which is premised upon the scientifically-invalidated idea that humans can be broken into distinct racial categories, and that these differences can be measured.

They added the word "distinct" to dishonestly strawmanify a true statement.

Jupiter said...

There used to be an ad on the back of the Village Voice for human skulls. Apparently, they would harvest them from the Ganges (a lot of Hindus "bury" their dead in the river) and sell them as medical teaching supplies. I bought one, I think it was 80 bucks. I've still got it, in fact I'm looking it in the eye-socket right now. Little metal hooks to hold the calvarium on, and springs to keep the jaw closed. Nice set of teeth.

Hey Skipper said...

Paco Wové: Perhaps I am unduly insensitive, but I read the whole article and I still have no idea what the ethical issues are.

Exactly. Aside from being relentlessly repetitious, had the article replaced every instance of "ethical" with "maguffin", it wouldn't have made any difference.

I'm not expert, but it seems for there to be any distinction between ethical and unethical, there has to be some harm involved. Try as I might, I couldn't find it anywhere.

Jupiter said...

"scientifically-invalidated idea". Hah!

You wouldn't want to just say "bad", or "disgusting" or "evil" or "hateful" or "repulsive" or "sickening" or ... no, that idea is so far beyond the pale that actual scientists -- like, with labs and stuff -- had to be diverted from their important scientifical-type activities for the express purpose of invalidating it. Let's hope it stays invalidated, we wouldn't want them to have to invalidate it again.

chuck said...

Sounds like the problems are more legal and political than ethical.

Bill Peschel said...

"Is it obvious to you what "murky ethics" are involved in the 3D printing of bone replicas?"

Trump favors it?

chuck said...

I'm bothered by the ethics of displaying dinosaur fossils and selling replicas of the bones. You don't want to mess with T. Rex.

MikeR said...

Tried to read but way too long. But I cannot tell what the ethical issue is. Something about sensitivity to some culture that has a long-standing religious objection to 3D printing?
Hmm.

Fernandistein said...

Though, predictably, the controversy boils down to "white people being mean to colored people".

And most obviously being mean by using hate facts: Race, brain size, and intelligence: another reply to Cernovsky

Wince said...

"3D Printing and the Murky Ethics of Replicating Bones."

Didn't we traverse this ethical dilemma with "Cynthia Plaster Caster"?

Meet Cynthia Plaster Caster, The Groupie Who Made Molds Out Of Rock Music’s Most Famous Penises

Char Char Binks said...

Concern grave robbing.

This is just like when those white scientists took credit for the discoveries made by Henrietta Lacks!

Michael K said...

And the laws on human remains are uneven. In the United States, for example, the only federal law regulating the sale and ownership of human remains is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which has criminal penalties for trafficking in Native American remains. A first-time offender can face a fine of up to $100,000 and a one-year jail sentence.

Politics was winning there, the last I heard. I don't know if Kennewick Man has yet been studied,.

If Otzi had been found in the US, no doubt he would still be in court,

It sounds like the Army still has custody of Kennewick Man.

That may not be for long as he seems to be related to modern Indians.


"From that perspective, I think we can conclude very clearly he is most clearly related to contemporary Native Americans."

We've maintained the belief at the Colville community tribes that the Ancient One is a relative of ours
Jim Boyd, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
Further detail revealed that the genome was most closely related to DNA from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, one of the five tribes who originally claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor.

Although the four other tribes did not provide DNA, the researchers suggested that they would also be closely related.


I expect the skeleton will end up reburied. Maybe 3 D printing can save it for study.

stlcdr said...

The only ethical consideration I could remotely come up with is that someone goes to great length to find a specific bone or bone structure, goes through the hardship of accurately 3D mapping it, then someone else takes the 3D map and sells it, thereby profiting from the original persons effort.

Not as if that’s a new problem.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

they arent Bonafide

Lucid-Ideas said...

Many of the Peruvian mountain child-mummies (child sacrifices, children of Llullallaico) on display in the museum built for that purpose in Argentina are actually fakes. Models. They were made because of the difficulty in displaying the actual remains in a controlled-climate needed to keep them from deteriorating insantly.

They don't have a problem making fake versions of the real thing despite objection from indigenous rights groups. You'd think this was a perfect compromise. What's the big deal?

Yancey Ward said...

"You take my picture, you steal my soul."

Richard said...

Many years ago, my wife and I visited an Indian reservation. We were told that you were not allowed to take pictures of the members of the reservation because it was disrespectful and violated their religious beliefs. However, for $25 (or whatever the price was) you could purchase a license to take all of the pictures you wanted.

Tomcc said...

Not entirely clear on the ethical dilemma, but it seems to me that when evaluating the 3D version you take into consideration that it's not actually made of bone.

Lucien said...

Nope, don’t see any ethical issues.

Mary Beth (the commenter) said...

People are downloading the digital models and re-uploading them to the internet without attribution of origin. Maybe there's some kind of Limewire for 3D printing. It was unforeseen that people would do this even though there are pirated versions of everything else that can be digitized and uploaded.

It's weird that every time I see an article about South Africa that mentions "colored/coloured", it tells me that it was an Apartheid term, but I can't remember any articles trying to replace it with something they find more acceptable. They always imply it's an objectionable term - is it ethical to keep using a term you feel is objectionable just because it has been used for a period of time?

Rabel said...

The principal ethical concern made murky by the South African author's refusal to address it directly is her modern South African apprehension that unrestricted study of accurate representations of skeletal remains will verify the obvious fact that racial groupings exist despite the denials of the enlightened and this simply cannot be tolerated.

And we think we've got racial problems.

The article was originally published on "Undark." Charles Blow (yeah, that Charles Blow) is on their advisory board.

Tomcc said...

Maybe "trans-bone"?

Rabel said...

To clarify, it's not the 3D printing itself that is the dilemma, it is the existence and dissemination of the associated data files.

h said...

Count me in the paco-wove party on this. I think Rabel does understand what the issue is, and his comment provides a hint that might be helpful to some, but Rabel does not provide a complete explication of the ethical dilemma.

John henry said...

I too could not figure out why there is any ethical issue wrt th 3d printing.

I do understand the ethical issues of handling human remains. I do understand the ethical legal issues of counterfeiting anything.

But what doe this have to do with 3d printing? I've seen some very high end printers doing extremely precise and high quality work. Doesn't seem like a good technology for counterfeiting unless the mark is extremely gullible.

3d printing is remarkable on many levels for many reasons. Ditto robots.

The word "robot" gets thrown around to scare people. I think this is an example of something similar.

Smells like bullshit.

John Henry

Tomcc said...

One example cited in the article: ..."curators discovered that someone had downloaded a skeletal model and uploaded it into a publicly-available online 3D software platform — divorced from its original context."
What original context is required and why?
Not to be glib, but is it a matter of attribution and/or license fees?

John henry said...

Rabel,

I missed that about dissemination. I can see the issue there similar to disseminating a Taylor swift album.

Still nothing to do with 3d printing.

John Henry

RigelDog said...

Paco posted: Perhaps I am unduly insensitive, but I read the whole article and I still have no idea what the ethical issues are.>>>

I read the whole article and came away with the exact same thought. The article spends a lot of time conflating the concept of actual human biological material such as bone with the concept of a plastic replica of human bones. Strictures on the use and abuse of biological material have no relevance at all to 3-D printing. Then there's a convoluted and aimless discussion of race and skeletons. No logic to be found; in fact, the article asserts (correctly) that there is a history of using physical racial characteristics to "prove" superiority or inferiority. Then the article states that it's completely disproven that humanity can even be divided up physically by race (a debatable assertion). Right after they state categorically that race doesn't physically exist, they quote a scientist fretting "What if they replicate 20 black skulls?"

John henry said...

I bought a DaVinci 3d printer about 4 years ago and was very happy with iy.

When it went tits up last summer, rather than spend money to fix an old technology, I bought a Crealty Ender Pro for only a bit more than a new print head.

I bought it for professional reasons but find it even more useful around the house. I use it pretty much daily for large tasks and small. About $250 via the portal.

Download objects to print from thingiverse.com

Or design your own using Sketchup, a very powerful 3d drawing program available free from Trimble.com

John Henry

Rabel said...

"Rabel does not provide a complete explication of the ethical dilemma"

The first rule of racial ethical dilemma club is that you do not completely explicate about racial ethical dilemma club.

Achilles said...

Watch the movie Gattaca.

The movie brings up the movie and in typical movie fashion ignores all other changes to society except the feature of the film.

But that is the issue they are talking about.

Gattaca gets much creepier if you know what people can do with Machine Learning techniques.

paminwi said...

My husband brought home a skeleton (a real one) from the hospital where he works (about 25 years ago).
We dressed it up like a pirate for our son’s birthday party.
Eye patch, sword and all!
Some parents dropping their kids off were mortified.
The kids thought it was great.
We took lots of pictures of kids posing with the skeleton.
Was that unethical? (The family donated it for research purposes)

Best game of the day?
Hiding a very loud kitchen timer and the kids searched for it like it was the crocodile from Peter Pan.
My son, who is wel into his thirties still says that pirate themed party was one of his favorites.

Gospace said...

I started reading, then glanced through the article, before you ever posted. Then linked it on my Facebook page with the comment: "Fake ethical dilemma. Glancing through it, that's my total thoughts on it."

Art in LA said...

Shouldn’t the family of the deceased receive a royalty for the duplication of the deceased likeness? For some reason, this reminded me of the recent NCAA lawsuit about college athletes being able to receive money for their likeness used in media.

Earnest Prole said...

Four words: Hottentot Venus Sex Robot.

Char Char Binks said...

Para poder llegar
Para poder llegar hasta tus ojos
Necesito viajar
O perder el alma en una foto
Podrá no existir
Ser una invención
Podrá no existir
Ser una invención
Cero y uno

Gospace said...

As far as bones and remains go, I remember a case a few years back where an Indian tribe fought for years to prevent DNA testing of remains, saying they were sacred ancestral remains of their ancestors. Finally, a court said - "Go ahead, test." Turns out the DNA from the remains didn't match the tribe at all.

North American tribes have switched territories, moved and migrated, taken over areas from tribes they displaced or killed, so often, that any claims that thousand year old remains are sacred to them are complete BS. Probably applies to 200 year old remains....

DABbio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Char Char Binks said...

South African robots are just traffic signal lights. BORING!

DABbio said...

The bottom line, when you finally extract the essence of the so-called ethical objection, and ignore for a moment questionable commercial misuse of what may or may not be proprietary data, is limitations on scientific inquiry (that someone is always going to find objectionable, even if the science is conducted with scrupulous objectivity), and free expression: If you're afraid, for some reason, of what someone is going to discover, suppress it.

The commercial misuse should be regulated.

The article suffers from the limitation of so much contemporary journalism: endless repetition, unnecessary prolixity, and failure to put the main points in the lead paragraph. I guess the authors and publishers think that this leads the reader on. Or is necessary to fill column space. I don't know.

Charles said...

It isn't clear but I think the implied ethical problem is that if you make knowledge freely available to free people they might use it for purposes of which you do not approve. It is an issue of control masquerading as ethics.

The closest I could come to a halfway credible ethical argument is a variant along the lines of The Ship of Theseus question.

IF you accept the ethical underpinnings of returning ancient bone artifacts to purported modern day descendants and the possible loss of knowledge that goes with that, then you might have an ethical dilemma with the following scenario.

The holder of the artifact scans the item and reproduces the artifact with complete fidelity; chemical, genetic, structural, etc.
They then return the artifact to the claimants but retain control of the replica. In effect they also retain control of the knowledge which might emerge from future analysis of the artifact. Possibly a lucrative medical discovery emerges and benefits the discoverers.

Under that scenario, there is definitely a control issue. Is there an ethical one? Depends on your answer to the Ship of Theseus question. Or perhaps the author is mistaking "ethical question" for what is actually a "philosophical question".

Anchovy1214 said...

Used to be, before Social Justice, we had a group of scholars that worked on things like ethics. They were called Philosophers. Now they are too woke to deal with things philosophical.

FullMoon said...

As far as bones and remains go, I remember a case a few years back where an Indian tribe fought for years to prevent DNA testing of remains, saying they were sacred ancestral remains of their ancestors. Finally, a court said - "Go ahead, test." Turns out the DNA from the remains didn't match the tribe at all.

North American tribes have switched territories, moved and migrated, taken over areas from tribes they displaced or killed, so often, that any claims that thousand year old remains are sacred to them are complete BS. Probably applies to 200 year old remains..


A small empty lot in between a 7/11 store and an Arco gas station in Santa Clara COunty (Silicon Valley) is an Indian graveyard. Saw anthropologists digging it up while I was getting gas for my truck. Station owner told me the lot is sold to unsuspecting buyers every decade or so and cannot be built upon. Every time it is sold, bone search happens.

That was years ago but lot still empty. Prime real estate 'cept for the ghosts.

h said...

Rabel thanks for the chuckle.

Levi Starks said...

I wanted to blame lawyers,
But as I read to the end I realized the real ethical issue is preventing access to the bones by someone who might do research that casts modern groupthink sociological views in a bad light.
In other words, we can not allow cruelly neutral research to happen.

Martin said...

I do not see the ethical issue. A 3D copy of a bone is not the bone, itself. And, if the issue is that some people may use such copies or datasets for research that some others find troubling, well, welcome to modernity.

Char Char Binks said...

Everything from the far north of Nunavit to the southernmost point of Tierra del Fuego is an Indian graveyard.

Michael McNeil said...

The holder of the artifact scans the item and reproduces the artifact with complete fidelity; chemical, genetic, structural, etc.

Can't be done. For science you've got to have (at least access to) the original evidence.

elkh1 said...

The only real concern I read was about "race" study.

Other concern was someone made money selling skeletons 3-D printed from free downloaded data.

If the institutions could take a cut of the proceeds, the ethical murkiness would be murky no more.

fleg9bo said...

Para poder llegar
Para poder llegar hasta tus ojos
Necesito viajar
O perder el alma en una foto


Pensaba que era Lorca, hasta que llegué a la parte de la foto.

wild chicken said...

I remember a case a few years back where an Indian tribe fought for years to prevent DNA testing of remains

They're still fighting. In his latest genomics book David Reich said that dna labs are having to do without it and use amerindians from Latin America for everything.

Never thought about that angle though. It's either that or a gambling issue.

Lol.

Char Char Binks said...

"Cero y Uno" es una canción de la banda Café Tacvba, pero no sé quién escribió la letra.

mikee said...

When my wife was taking Anatomy in med school, her cadaver was a deceased veteran without any family, delivered from the local VA hospital. He was apparently a sailor, based on the tattoos he had celebrating port calls from Subic Bay to the Tyne to Cape Town to Sydney to New York to San Fran. Both arms, both thighs, his entire chest and back were covered with mementos of his travels.

When my wife and her lab partner, another quiet young female, were dissecting the groin, the time came to remove the old fella's penis. The lab partner did so, then waved it over her head, loudly asking the entire labful of 1st year med students, "Can you just imagine all the places THIS has been?!"

My wife's skeleton was not nearly as exciting.

Josephbleau said...

As a famous climate scientist said, Why should I give them access to my data, they will just try to find something wrong with it.” I suspect that the same reasoning applies to bone research, they don’t want any hypothesis supported other than their own.

Ken B said...

Yancey Ward,exactly. Paco Wove too

zefal said...

Human evolution is only real when mocking Christian creationists. All other times it's a racist construct! Am I right, Anne?

Nichevo said...

Further detail revealed that the genome was most closely related to DNA from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, one of the five tribes who originally claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor

I thought you couldn't get Indian DNA. Wasn't that a bone in Liz Warren's throat?

wild chicken said...

It was after Kennewick Man that the tribes decided they didn't like ancient dna research.

Ken B said...

The problem is that there is no problem, and people don’t like having that pointed out.

There is only one “way of knowing”, and that way is empirical, evidence based science.

Icepilot said...

Issues with "unauthorized distribution" or hacking of data? How very common.
But anything that has "ethical" issues surely must be taken with black hole levels of gravity! Because ethics!!

charu chauhan said...

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THANKS FOR SHARING THE INFORMATION
HAVE A NICE DAY
fitness band

JAORE said...

"The murkiness in getting to the point of what's murky in the ethics is evidence of what a sensitive problem it is."

Micro-sensitivity?
The fog of war >>> the murkiness of getting to the point.
The 3D printed thigh bone's connected to the 3D printed knee bone....

I worked with numerous Tribes in my former (working) life. I had the dubious pleasure of informing 11 or so Tribal representatives that an intact skeleton of a Native American child had been stolen from our site. Likely for sale. Not the highlight of my career.

FWIW different tribes handle issues like human remains and burial sites very differently.