Bioethics represents a dramatic revision of the centuries-old professional ethics that governed the behavior of physicians and their relationships with patients. This venerable ethics code was challenged in the years after World War II by the remarkable advances in the biomedical sciences and medicine that raised questions about the definition of death, the use of life-support systems, organ transplantation, and reproductive interventions. In response, philosophers and theologians, lawyers and social scientists joined together with physicians and scientists to rethink and revise (...) the old standards. Governments established commissions to recommend policies. Courts heard arguments and legislatures passed laws. This book is the first broad history of the growing field of bioethics. Covering the period 1947-1987, it examines the origin and evolution of the debates over human experimentation, genetic engineering, organ transplantation, termination of life-sustaining treatment, and new reproductive technologies. It assesses the contributions of philosophy, theology, law and the social sciences to the expanding discourse of bioethics. Written by one of the field's founders, The Birth of Bioethics is based on extensive archival research into sources that are difficult to obtain and on interviews with many of the leading figures in the moral debates in medicine. A very readable and comprehensive account of the evolution of bioethics, this book stresses the history of ideas but does not neglect the social and cultural context and the people involved. It will serve the information needs of philosophers, ethicists, social historians, and everyone interested in the origins of some of today's most hotly debated issues. (shrink)
A physician says, "I have an ethical obligation never to cause the death of a patient," another responds, "My ethical obligation is to relieve pain even if the patient dies." The current argument over the role of physicians in assisting patients to die constantly refers to the ethical duties of the profession. References to the Hippocratic Oath are often heard. Many modern problems, from assisted suicide to accessible health care, raise questions about the traditional ethics of medicine and the medical (...) profession. However, few know what the traditional ethics are and how they came into being. This book provides a brief tour of the complex story of medical ethics evolved over centuries in both Western and Eastern culture. It sets this story in the social and cultural contexts in which the work of healing was practiced and suggests that, behind the many different perceptions about the ethical duties of physicians, certain themes appear constantly, and may be relevant to modern debates. The book begins with the Hippocratic medicine of ancient Greece, moves through the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe, and the long history of Indian and Chinese medicine, ending as the problems raised modern medical science and technology challenge the settled ethics of the long tradition. (shrink)
This essay focuses on how casuistry can become a useful technique of practical reasoning for the clinical ethicist or ethics consultant. Casuistry is defined, its relationship to rhetorical reasoning and its interpretation of cases, by employing three terms that, while they are not employed by the classical rhetoricians and casuists, conform, in a general way, to the features of their work. Those terms are (1) morphology, (2) taxonomy, (3) kinetics. The morphology of a case reveals the invariant structure of the (...) particular case whatever its contingent features, and also the invariant forms of argument relevant to any case of the same sort: these invariant features can be called topics. Taxonomy situates the instant case in a series of similar cases, allowing the similarities and differences between an instant case and a paradigm case to dictate the moral judgment about the instant case. This judgment is based, not merely on application of an ethical theory or principle, but upon the way in which circumstances and maxims appear in the morphology of the case itself and in comparison with other cases. Kinetics is an understanding of the way in which one case imparts a kind of moral movement to other cases, that is, different and sometimes unprecedented circumstances may move certain marginal or exceptional cases to the level of paradigm cases. In conclusion, casuistry is the exercise of prudential or practical reasoning in recognition of the relationship between maxims, circumstances and topics, as well as the relationship of paradigms to analogous cases. (shrink)
Whether ethics is too important to be left to the experts or so important that it must be is an age-old question. The emergence of clinical ethicists raises it again, as a question about professionalism. What role clinical ethicists should play in healthcare decision making – teacher, mediator, or consultant – is a question that has generated considerable debate but no consensus.
For the last century, moral philosophy has stressed theory for the analysis of moral argument and concepts. In the last decade, interest in the ethical issues of health care has stimulated attention to cases and particular instances. This has revealed the gap between ethical theory and practice. This article reviews the history and method of casuistry which for many centuries provided an approach to practical ethics. Its strengths and weaknesses are noted and its potential for contemporary use explored.
The era of replacing human organs and their functions began with chronic dialysis and renal transplantation in the 1960s. These significant medical advances brought unprecedented problems. Among these, the selection of patients for a scarce resource was most troubling. In Seattle, where dialysis originated, a “God Committee” selected which patients would live and die. The debates over such a committee stimulated the origins of bioethics.
Two recent policy statements by providers of critical care representing the United States and Europe have rejected the concept and language of “medical futility,” on the ground that there is no universal consensus on a definition. They recommend using “potentially inappropriate” or “inappropriate” instead. As Bosslet and colleagues state: The term “potentially inappropriate” should be used, rather than futile, to describe treatments that have at least some chance of accomplishing the effect sought by the patient, but clinicians believe that competing (...) ethical considerations justify not providing them. Clinicians should explain and advocate for the treatment plan... (shrink)
This is the God Squad. It is faceless, impersonal, unmoved by tragedy, almost terrorist in aspect. The photo appeared in LIFE magazine on November 9, 1962, and it depicted the Admissions and Policy Committee of the Seattle Artificial Kidney Center. The Committee had been established in 1962 to select those few persons who would be admitted to the new and tiny dialysis unit that was created by Dr. Belding Scribner, inventor of the arteriovenous shunt. It consisted of seven anonymous members (...) – a minister, a lawyer, a businessman, a homemaker, a labor leader, and two physicians. Each month they received a pile of charts about persons with end-stage renal disease. A prior medical evaluation had rated them all medically suitable for dialysis. The Committee’s task was to select one or two out of a dozen or so to take the available spots. The others were left to die. After several years of this agonizing work, the amendments to the Social Security Act provided financial support for renal dialysis and transplant, allowing the Admission Committee some peace of mind. (shrink)
The theology of John Calvin has deeply affected the American mentality through two streams of thought, Puritanism and Jansenism. These traditions formulate moral problems in terms of absolute, clear principles and avoid casuistic analysis of moral problems. This approach is designated American moralism. This article suggests that the bioethics movement in the United States was stimulated by the moralistic mentality but that the work of the bioethics has departed from this viewpoint. Keywords: bioethics, Calvinism, casuistry, Jansenism, moralism, moral principle, Puritanism (...) CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Bioethics Beyond the Headlines is a primer in bioethics. You will not find convoluted philosophical arguments in this volume. Rather, you will find an engaging sampling of the key questions in bioethics, including euthanasia, assisted reproduction, cloning and stem cells, neuroscience, access to healthcare, and even research on animals and questions of environmental ethics—areas typically overlooked in general introductions to bioethics.
The famous first aphorism of Hippocrates, "Life is short, the art is long" was long considered a perfect summary of medical ethics. Modern physicians find the words impossible to understand. But it can be interpreted as a fundamental insight into the ethical problems of modern medicine. The technology of modern scientific medicine can sustain life, even when life is losing its vitality. How should decisions be made about the use of technology and by whom? This is the incessant question of (...) modern medical ethics. (shrink)
The essays in this Special Section are about the ethics of Commercialism in Medicine. They are written, for the most part, by bioethicists, with the support of several prominent physicians and a health policy lawyer. This journal is, of course, devoted to ethics. Thus, our intent is to subject the question of commercialism in medicine to ethical scrutiny. Much has been written about commercialism in healthcare but very little about the ethics of commercialism in healthcare. One of our authors, Dr. (...) Jerome Kassirer, has encouraged a national dialogue about these issues. We hope to start that dialogue in the bioethical community and, through that community, into the nation. (shrink)
Many years ago, the esteemed patriarch of bioethics, Joseph Fletcher, spoke loud and clear in favor of rationality in reproduction. By rationality, he meant not merely limiting population growth, which he certainly favored, but bringing to bear human analytic and creative intelligence on the random and instinctive activities of sexual intercourse and procreation that we share with all mammals. In his 1974 book, The Ethics of Genetic Control: Ending Reproductive Roulette, he foresaw most of the issues that we are facing (...) today. He reflected on artificial insemination, prenatal diagnosis, cloning, eugenics, ectogenesis, ovum transfers, and genetic engineering. He examined these innovations to the extent that he felt that each of them represents a way of exercising rational and responsible control over life and reproduction. The subtitle of his book, “Ending Reproductive Roulette,” proclaims his faith. Dr. Fletcher's dedication to rationality led him to make the astonishing statement, “Man is a maker and the more rationally contrived and deliberate anything is, the more human it is. Therefore, laboratory reproduction is radically human compared to conception by ordinary heterosexual intercourse.”. (shrink)