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June 24, 2010


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Mmm... bioethics saved philosophy, and now public health will save bioethics? Somehow, that strikes me as rather inaccurate.

Until I can swim across the street to the library, I'm stuck responding only to the abstract, of course, but here's my take:

1 - Agreed. Bioethics often does collapse into medical ethics. I think this is probably a function of two things. The first is age/origin; bioethics is younger than medical ethics, and medical ethics is something like the parent of bioethics. Until the field gets some more years under it's belt - time to establish itself as a genuinely separate field, this conflation will keep happening.

2 - Mmm. If you don't want to conflate bioethics and medical ethics, point two probably shouldn't be focusing on medical ethics instead of bioethics. As to the charge, I think there are bigger issues in medical ethics that this skirts around, and it goes back to the conflict and resentment that seems to happen when non-MDs "invade" the medical world.

3 - Well, I think I already made my point about public health ethics "rescuing" bioethics, but I'm longwinded... a few years ago, someone I worked with expressed concern that bioethics was moving away/out from philosophy. More and more, if not most, "professional" bioethicists were coming out of public health programs, and the problem there is that public health doesn't teach thinking in the same way that philosophy does. In fact, I'd say that an emphasis on public health is moving exactly away from the sort of critical, Socratic dialog that Dawson is indicating he thinks the field itself needs.

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