Bioethics, Public Moral Argument, and Social Responsibility

Bioethics, Public ethical Argument, and Social accountability explores the position of democratically orientated argument in selling public knowing and dialogue of the advantages and burdens of biotechnological progress.
The participants learn ethical and coverage controversies surrounding biomedical applied sciences and their position in American society, starting with an exam of discourse and ethical authority in democracy, and addressing a collection of matters that come with: dignity in well-being care; the social tasks of scientists, newshounds, and students; and the language of genetics and ethical responsibility.

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There are underlying tensions in the field: between the left and the right; between pro-life conservatives and pro-choice progressives; between libertarian conservatives and neoconservatives, and between progressives who are more and those who are less enthusiastic about technological innovation. These and other underlying tensions have been largely unresolved since the 1970s, and they have now become very visible. This poses a challenge for people in bioethics, who like to think of themselves as able to help to craft moral consensus with and for the public.

Changing the law and making policy are properly left to the Wake legislature. There is no basis here to expand the common law to equate anencephaly with death, according to either Wake law or any other commonly accepted definitions of death and suitability for organ donation, because: • Even though the Wake statute is permissive in nature, its framers clearly did not intend to apply it to a situation where the individual is not being maintained on life support. The second clause, “where respiratory and circulatory functions are maintained by artificial means of support so as to preclude a determination that these functions have ceased,” supports this interpretation; • Anencephalic infants are not dead under the Uniform Determination of Death Act (National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws 1981), which requires an irreversible cessation of circulatory, respiratory or whole brain function; and • Anencephalic infants do not qualify as dead under the Harvard Criteria (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of Harvard Medical School 1963), which require unreceptivity and unresponsitivity.

It raises a very difficult question: is bioethics merely ideology masquerading as public moral philosophy? Tristam Engelhardt has answered this question in the affi rmative (Engelhardt 2002). I think the answer is no; but it is a question that we need to ask ourselves. The best answer will be framed in terms of the democratic process values that I have described, so that we can achieve moral consensus without the eruption of another Civil War. NOTES 1. Whether one believes “bioethics” is a field qualitatively different from traditional medical ethics depends partly upon the significance one attributes to the emphasis on medical truth-telling and patient autonomy in the discussions that began in the late 1960s—which differed from the more global concept of bioethics fi rst introduced by Van Resselaer Potter (1971).

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