, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 31-42,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

From ‘Implications’ to ‘Dimensions’: Science, Medicine and Ethics in Society

Abstract

Much bioethical scholarship is concerned with the social, legal and philosophical implications of new and emerging science and medicine, as well as with the processes of research that under-gird these innovations. Science and technology studies (STS), and the related and interpenetrating disciplines of anthropology and sociology, have also explored what novel technoscience might imply for society, and how the social is constitutive of scientific knowledge and technological artefacts. More recently, social scientists have interrogated the emergence of ethical issues: they have documented how particular matters come to be regarded as in some way to do with ‘ethics’, and how this in turn enjoins particular types of social action. In this paper, I will discuss some of this and other STS (and STS-inflected) literature and reflect on how it might complement more ‘traditional’ modes of bioethical enquiry. I argue that STS might (1) cast new light on current bioethical issues, (2) direct the gaze of bioethicists towards matters that may previously have escaped their attention, and (3) indicate the import not only of the ethical implications of biomedical innovation, but also how these innovative and other processes feature ethics as a dimension of everyday laboratory and clinical work. In sum, engagements between STS and bioethics are increasingly important in order to understand and manage the complex dynamics between science, medicine and ethics in society.