May 20, 2024

Bioethics destined for “bankruptcy”

A medical historian has published a stinging attack on the bioethicists and bioethics in the most recent issue of The Lancet. Roger Cooter, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicien at University College London, says the word was coined in 1970 and could soon disappear:

Hardly wet behind the ears, bioethics seems destined for a short lifespan. Conspiring against it is exposure of the funding of some of its US centres by pharmaceutical companies; exclusion of alternative perspectives from the social sciences; retention of narrow analytical notions of ethics in the face of popular expression and academic respect for the place of emotions; divisions within the discipline (including over its origins and meaning); and collusion with, and appropriation by, clinical medicine. To many, its embrace of everything bearing on human life renders it, paradoxically, bankrupt. The one exception to its literal demise may be in historical studies, in which it signposts the emergence of a set of tensions and realignments within the social relations of late-20th-century medicine.