The breadth of bioethics: Core areas of bioethics education for hospital ethics committees

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 26 (1):101 – 118 (2001)
The multidisciplinary nature of bioethics can result in narrow sub-specialists within the field, whose work reflects the issues and concerns most relevant to their home discipline. This can result in work which is insensitive to the important ways in which particular areas of bioethics are interrelated, and which (while viable in the context of the sub-specialty) is not viable in a broader context. The narrow focus of many healthcare ethics committees on issues directly related to clinical patient care can exacerbate this problem. Increasingly, issues in the clinical care of patients cannot be separated from issues in research, organizational ethics, and public policy. I argue that these problems call for a need to identify core areas for bioethics education. This is especially true for education of hospital ethics committees, which incresingly face complex cases involving concerns that fall outside traditional patient care issues. I then consider nine areas examined in detail in A Companion to Bioethics edited by Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, as potential candidates for core areas of bioethics education. At the same time, I evaluate the range of issues examined in each area of the book, in the context of the books ability to provide an introduction to each area.
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