The Birth of Bioethics

Oxford University Press (1998)
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Abstract

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.

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