Six Degrees of Bioethics Separation: Stranger Things


Good friends direct you to good TV and one of my best friends firmly told me that I needed to be watching Netflix’s Stranger Things. THANK YOU friend – it was a bioethicists’ candy store! And as I was watching, I thought it was a perfect show to use for Six Degrees of Bioethics Separation! If you haven’t played Six Degrees of Separation before, it’s pretty simple. You pick a topic and try to connect it to the original topic in six steps or less. So in Six Degrees of Bioethics Separation, I am going to try to connect a topic to bioethics in six steps or less. Feel free to check out the first time did this on the blog for CW’s The Flash here.

Netflix’s Stranger Things centers around the disappearance of Will Byers – a preteen who loves Dungeons and Dragons, science, and drawing. His mother and brother – and his three friends Dustin, Mike, and Lucas – will do anything to save him. They face the government, alternate dimensions, and powers they have never seen before in their quest to get their friend back. It gives you all of the 1980’s vibes you could ever want and the writing, in true Netflix fashion, is phenomenal. If you aren’t watching it, you’re missing out. Again – there are spoilers in this post. So if you have plans to watch it, back track to my home page and read another post until you catch up! So on with the game!

  1. Will Beyers was sucked into The Upside Down. The whole Stranger Things series started because Will Beyers was abducted. But then we learn during the show that he was actually abducted by a hunting Demagorgon. This attack led to Will being dropped into another dimension called The Upside Down.
  2.  He was sucked into The Upside Down because Eleven’s special abilities were used by the government to travel into another dimension. The federal government accidentally opened a portal into The Upside Down by  performing very unethical, LSD experiments on adults and their children. Eleven was one of those unfortunate children. She was responsible for opening the portal by being abused and coerced.
  3. The government’s experiments not only brought a potential apocalypse, but physically and emotionally harmed Will and Eleven. This is pretty self explanatory. The government’s unethical experiments on both Will and Eleven caused them to experience emotional trauma, brain damage, and just general unfortunate-ness. Oh and they almost caused a genocidal, alien-supremacist apocalypse.
  4. If the government lab had an Institutional Review Board (IRB), they wouldn’t have been in this mess – cause it all would’ve been DENIED. As an IRB member, I took this facet of the show seriously. The government kidnapped children, performed electroshock therapy without consent, exploited their special abilities, left people to die, and again – almost created an apocalypse by keep-away with portals. The Food and Drug Administration’s definition of an IRB is “…an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects…This group review serves an important role in the protection of the rights and welfare of human research subjects…” If the research done in Stranger Things was presented to an IRB, it would’ve absolutely denied.
  5. The regulation and protection of human subjects research is a very important aspect of bioethics that stemmed from the Nuremberg Trials.

So there you have it! Netflix’s Stranger Things connected with Bioethics – and in less than six degrees! I hope you enjoyed this and had some fun playing with me! If you want to see me play Six Degrees of Bioethics Separation again, leave me a topic idea in the comments below. Love to hear from you!

See you next time,

The Neighborhood Bioethicist



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Commissioner, Office of the. “Search for FDA Guidance Documents – Institutional Review Boards Frequently Asked Questions – Information Sheet.” WebContent. Accessed November 12, 2017.
Stranger Things. Drama, Fantasy, Horror. Accessed November 13, 2017.

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