Law and bioethics : a rights-based relationship and its troubling implications

In Michael D. A. Freeman (ed.), Law and Bioethics / Edited by Michael Freeman. Oxford University Press (2008)
Some argue that law is the discipline which has mixed most prominently with bioethics, and that bioethicists can be seduced by the law and by legal procedures. While there is a great consensus that law has influenced bioethics in significant and important ways, certainly much more than it influenced other "law and..." disciplines, scholars dispute as to the exact role which the law plays in bioethics, the goals it purports to achieve and the implications of its relationship with the discipline of bioethics. This Article aims to explore the relationship between law and bioethics and calls for a careful evaluation of the law's contributions to bioethics. Specifically, it will be argued that while the law contributed extensively to the development of bioethics it introduced a language and a way of thinking that are not necessarily appropriate to handle and resolve bioethical issues, and which, in significant portion of cases, was irrelevant and had little impact on decision-making and behavioral patterns of patients. Moreover, law's interference with and shape of bioethical issues resulted in serious threats to some of the major characteristic of such issues and brought about to other societal concerns which the law did not consider seriously. The article will conclude that it is now time to re-evaluate the direction in which bioethics should take in the next years, specifically whether it should continue to integrate with law or other disciplines, or alternatively become a more autonomous and independent discipline.
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