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Title:The values and ethics of biomedical engineering practices in the design of novel biotechnologies
Author(s):Bloch, Beth Strickland
Director of Research:Darch, Peter
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Darch, Peter
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Twidale, Michael; Murphy, Colleen; Shilton, Katie
Department / Program:Information Sciences
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Biomedical Engineering
Health Informatics
Translational Medicine
Value Sensitive Design
Science Studies
Abstract:Many novel biomedical technologies are currently in development at university-based laboratories across the United States. They are designed to provide cutting-edge diagnostics and treatments to patients within clinical settings. The primary designers of these novel technologies are biomedical engineers working in laboratory groups affiliated with academic biomedical engineering departments. In this project, the laboratory design practices of two types of biomedical engineering groups are examined. Cellular biomedical engineering laboratories develop novel cell-based technological systems used for genetic engineering, synthetic biomaterials, and nano-sized drug delivery systems. Biomedical device engineering laboratories develop novel device-based technological applications used in conjunction with MRI machines, ultrasound devices, and prosthetic apparatus. The findings of this study indicate biomedical engineering laboratory practices happen within the broader institutional context of translational medicine. The NIH conceptualizes translational biomedical research along a five-stage progressive roadmap of scientific activities, and in this project, depicts the starting research location of both cellular and biomedical device engineering laboratories. This initial location suggests how institutional actors from government, industry, and university, shape the design practices of each type of biomedical engineering group. This study relies on literature from science and technologies studies, library and information science, and values and design, to ask questions concerned with three primary areas: The impact of values on the design of novel biomedical technologies, the suggested values implications of these design practices, and the proposed ethical design interventions for biomedical engineering laboratories. Using a triangulation methodological approach, data were gathered from 300+ hours of observations, 44 semi-structured interviews, and hundreds of pages of laboratory and academic department documents. The findings suggest that the laboratory research and development activities of both cellular biomedical engineers and biomedical device engineers implicates the values of responsibility and transparency. The laboratory practices of cellular biomedical engineering laboratories adversely impact their self-perception as responsible actors in the design of technology, contribute to the conflated use of the term translation, and remove patients as the imagined end users. The laboratory activities of biomedical device engineering laboratories contribute to the perception that core devices altered with novel applications remain safe for continued clinical use, and to the devaluation of biology by turning complex physiological processes into abstract representations. Proposed ethics-based design interventions position biomedical engineering laboratories within a sociotechnical context and target both the laboratory level and institutional level.
Issue Date:2020-12-01
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Beth Strickland Bloch
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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