Philosophy 187 - 10.1 The Challenge of Bioethics

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Summarize current scientific advances and social and political factors that contribute to our understanding of today’s bioethical controversies.
  • Explain the main philosophical positions in major areas of bioethical debate including abortion, euthanasia, clinical trials, and human augmentation.
  • Propose a position on each bioethical issue.

The term bioethics, which essentially means “life ethics,” was coined in 1970 by Van Rensselaer Potter (1911–2011), an American biochemist. It is a field that studies ethical issues that emerge with advances in biology, technology, and medicine. For example, bioethics deals with issues related to patient autonomy, the distribution of and access to medical resources, human experimentation, online privacy, and life-and-death decisions in medicine. When confronted with issues like these, ethicists consider a multiplicity of views, any potentially relevant interests, and complex situational factors. The bioethicist, like anyone doing applied ethics, must be prepared to wear many hats in order to explore all sides and perspectives. This section looks at current areas of controversy and debate in the field of bioethics.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax