Description: This is a sociological and historical analysis of bioethics written by two social scientists who have participated in and observed bioethics since its early days.
Purpose: Their book, a critique of contemporary bioethics, documents the development of bioethics primarily in the U.S. and to some extent in other societies. It critically examines the social and cultural contexts in which bioethics emerged and continues to develop.
Audience: This will be of interest not only to bioethicists and bioethics students, but also to students and scholars in sociology, history of medicine, philosophy of science, and cultural studies. The authors are well known and respected scholars and, as individuals who have worked in and alongside bioethics for decades, they command the respect of readers.
Features: In the first part of the book, which is primarily historical, the authors explore many of the critical moments in the history of contemporary bioethics. They consider the activities of people directly involved in bioethics as well as the role the media and the government have played in the development of bioethics. In the second part, the authors critically examine bioethics and enumerate conceptual and practical deficiencies of the field. The third part examines the development of bioethics internationally. The authors' work is informed by many of their own experiences working in different societies and they pay special attention to the cultural and religious influences in bioethics. The final part is a critical discussion of bioethics in the U.S. today.
Assessment: This insightful book adds depth to the literature on the history of bioethics and delivers important and sometimes controversial insights about contemporary bioethics. It provides a much needed look at a field that has grown dramatically in only a few decades but that many see as lacking a defined scope and purpose.