, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 7-16
Date: 14 Dec 2007

Getting from the Ethical to the Empirical and Back Again: The Danger of Getting it Wrong, and the Possibilities for Getting it Right

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‘Bioethics: past, present and future’ was a conference whose purpose was to create a snapshot of postgraduate work in bioethics. This work, it was hoped, would be illustrative of the new generation of academics working in the field, and of their attitudes towards their discipline. The conference attracted postgraduates from diverse areas and backgrounds, unified by their shared work in bioethics. Given such a disparate group one might have thought there would be a great deal of disagreement about what bioethics is and what counts as ‘doing bioethics’, yet this was not the case. There were variations of interpretation as to what constitutes bioethics, but the points on which there was agreement were far more striking. Throughout the 2 days of the conference, during formal presentations and informal discussions, ran a pervasive theme: in order to contextualise the normative claims at the heart of bioethical debate, we need to make appropriate use of empirical data.