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From The CriticsReviewer: George J. Agich, PhD (Cleveland Clinic Foundation)
Description: This book, as indicated by the title, is a description of the origin of bioethics.
Purpose: This book is a comprehensive account of the early development of bioethics from 1947-1987, a period in which it emerged as a distinctive field.
Audience: Medical and graduate students, physicians, and others interested in understanding the early history of the bioethics movement are the intended audience.
Features: The story of the emergence of bioethics is presented in three parts. In the first part the focus is on people and places, and the history prior to 1947 is covered as are the early theological, philosophical, and governmental influences on bioethics. In the second part the problems that have become the staple of bioethics are discussed, such as research with human subjects, the new biology and genetics, organ transplantation, end-of-life care decision making, definitions of death and the care of the dying, as well as the ethics of human reproduction. In the third part the author takes up the more academic questions of bioethics as discipline, discourse, and the character of bioethics in America and abroad.
Assessment: While this treatment of the theoretical roots of bioethics in theology and philosophy are likely to prove useful for many, the most engaging discussion is to be found in Chapters 5-9. Each of these chapters is a well-researched synopsis of the development of these important and complex subjects. Utilizing primary and secondary sources, the author provides a compelling and nuanced account of the persons and events that contributed to the development of these contentious topics. Presenting the first serious historical account of the field, he establishes not only the standard for future historical scholarship, but provides an insightful commentary on how bioethics has come to enjoy a public prominence. He admirably helps readers to understand the intellectual and ethical challenges that make bioethics such a vibrant part of contemporary medicine, science, and society.