The Growth of Bioethics as a Second-Order Discipline

Chapter
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 115)

Abstract

This chapter offers a historically-grounded analysis of the nature of bioethics as a field of inquiry and practice. It begins with a detailed history of the evolution of early bioethics organizations, including the Society for Health and Human Values, the American Association of Bioethics, and the Society for Bioethics Consultation, and traces this history into the period in which these organizations merged as the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. This rich recounting offers both first-person and third-person observations of these organizations’ development, membership, problems, and mergers. With this historically-informed background in place, the author proceeds analytically to consider four basic approaches to characterizing the nature of bioethics: (1) bioethics as pure public discourse, with no experts, core texts, common methods, or common standards; (2) bioethics as unique to a single existing discipline (e.g., philosophy, medicine, etc.), with bioethics expertise limited to those who have undertaken extensive study in that field; and (3) bioethics as evolving into a new, independent discipline with its own core texts, methods, area of expertise, and common standards for scholarship and consultation. These three views are rejected in favor of the view that (4) bioethics is an interdisciplinary and second-order discipline with no unique area of expertise. Four key pieces of evidence support this analysis: bioethicists (1) tend to expand their subject matter (unlike most new fields, which splinter off from, and narrow the subject matter of, existing disciplines), (2) think of bioethics problems as complex and solutions as interdisciplinary, (3) welcome various perspectives from different professions, and (4) allow those various professions to set their own standards of competency.

Keywords

Public Discourse Core Curriculum Professional Code Philosophical Ethic Public Expectation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies (Emeritus), Brody School of MedicineEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  2. 2.Kennedy Institute of EthicsGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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