Bioethics as a distinctive field is undergoing a critical turn. It may be a quiet revolution, but a growing body of scholarship illustrates a perceived need for a rethink of the scope of the field and the approaches and priorities that have carried bioethicists through many heady years of success. Few areas of bioethical practice have been left unexamined, ranging from questions as to the sustainability of the discipline in its current form to the “expertise” of its practitioners; the legitimacy of bioethics in the realms of policymaking; its relationship to philosophy; the purchase of empirical and interdisciplinary method; the relationship of bioethics to the real world; bioethical understandings of the concept of “health” (and methods of attainment); its agenda, priorities, and inclusiveness right up to what might be the overarching question: “What is bioethics all about?” Unsurprisingly, these questions elicit varied responses. Scholars from various disciplines have critiqued fundamental tenets of the “ethics” business, albeit as claims of its “conservatism,” “corruption,” and its questionable “usefulness” suggest, not always with a charitable or constructive eye. But quite crucially and often overlooked, bioethics itself has not shied away from the question as to what bioethics is and what it should become; increasingly apparent is that this kind of self-conscious and reflexive theorizing is regarded as a key priority for taking contemporary ethics forward.
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