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Vorsprung durch Technik: On Biotechnology, Bioethics, and Its Beneficiaries

Abstract

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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43. See note 18, Rose 2007:31.

44. See note 1, Dawson 2010.

45. See further note 4, Hedgecoe 2004. Hedgecoe notes how bioethical representations of ethics can contrast so profoundly with ethical reasoning on the ground.

46. See note 4, Hedgecoe 2004:121.

My thanks to Joanna Latimer, Martin Weinel, Adam Hedgecoe, Harry Collins, Joan Haran, Russell Hardy, Matteo Fabretti, and Nao Yamada, who have been so willing to engage in discussion and debate with me around a range of themes relating to this piece. Thanks also go to the anonymous referees. Particular gratitude is owed to John Coggon for all of his patience and time as well as the generous invitation to contribute to this issue.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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