Bioethics and the newspapers

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 24 (2):164 – 180 (1999)
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Many bioethics questions are resistant to journalistic exploration on account of their inherently philosophical dimensions. Such dimensions are ill-suited to what we may term the internal goods (in MacIntyre's sense) of the newspapers and mass media generally, which constrain newspaper coverage to an abbreviated form of narrative that, whilst not in itself objectionable, is nonetheless inimical to the conduct of philosophical reflection. The internal goods of academic bioethics, by contrast, include attention to philosophical questions inherent in bioethical issues and value-enquiry. The danger for bioethics is that its agenda for reflective enquiry will, if dictated by this abbreviated narrative, be distorted in terms of both range and priorities, to the inevitable neglect of questions having a philosophical dimension to them. This danger can be avoided by a constructive partnership between the media and academic bioethics. The success of this partnership relies on four suggested provisos, for the meeting of which both journalists and academics bear responsibility.



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