Ethics advisor

This spring, Dalhousie bioethics professor Dr. Françoise Baylis took an unusual step for an academic.

Baylis released a two-minute video on YouTube, The Body Economy: Human Eggs in the Marketplace, the first in a series of videos she is producing to stimulate public conversation around the thorny ethical issues of putting a price on human life. (The video may be found by searching “The Body Economy” on YouTube.) In Canada, it is illegal to buy eggs or sperm, or to pay a surrogate mother to gestate a child. Last spring, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather introduced a private member’s bill to decriminalize such payments. Dr. Baylis released her video in response, drawing on her more than 25 years of expertise in reproductive ethics.

Highlights: “I’m not saying to anyone ‘You are wrong!’. I am providing them with nuanced information about the potential consequences of certain actions and asking them ‘What do you think?’,” Dr. Baylis says. Two things inspired her video: the 40th birthday of the world’s first “test-tube baby” and a Twitter video by a University of Toronto professor about the importance of Canadians supporting investment in science. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is much better way to communicate an important message to the public.’”

Why She Does It: Dr. Baylis believes academics have a responsibility to share the knowledge they’ve gained through publicly funded research. “I consider myself to be a public servant,” she says. “It’s not enough to share just with students and colleagues, in lecture halls and paywall-protected journals. I must also reach out to the general public, to policymakers, and to the health professionals involved in these decisions.”