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Bizarre Bioethics

Ghosts, Monsters, and Pilgrims

Henk A.M.J. ten Have, MD, PhD

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The focus of bioethical debates on exceptional cases neglects the underlying values—like justice and community—that would lend to a broader, more well-rounded understanding of today's world.

Discussions of ethical problems in health care too often concentrate on exceptional cases. Bioethical controversies triggered by experimental drugs, gene-edited babies, or life extension are understandably fascinating: they showcase the power of medical science and technology while addressing anxieties concerning health, disease, suffering, and death. However, the focus on rare individual cases in the media…

The focus of bioethical debates on exceptional cases neglects the underlying values—like justice and community—that would lend to a broader, more well-rounded understanding of today's world.

Discussions of ethical problems in health care too often concentrate on exceptional cases. Bioethical controversies triggered by experimental drugs, gene-edited babies, or life extension are understandably fascinating: they showcase the power of medical science and technology while addressing anxieties concerning health, disease, suffering, and death. However, the focus on rare individual cases in the media spotlight turns attention away from more pressing ethical issues that impact global populations, such as access to health care, safe food and water, and the prevention of emerging infectious diseases.

In Bizarre Bioethics, Henk A.M.J. ten Have argues that this focus on bizarre cases leads to bizarre bioethics with a narrow agenda for ethical debate. In other words, although these extreme cases are undeniably real, they present a limited and skewed view of everyday moral reality. This focus also assumes that individuals are rational decision-makers, so that the role of feelings and emotions can be downgraded. Larger questions related to justice, solidarity, community, meaning, and ambiguity are not appreciated. Such questions used to be posed by philosophical and theological traditions, but they have been exorcised and marginalized in the development of bioethics. Science, ten Have writes, is not a value-free endeavor that provides facts and evidence: it is driven by underlying value perspectives that are often based on metaphors and world views from philosophical and theological traditions.

Drawing on a rich analysis of the literature, ten Have explains how bioethical discussion can be enriched by these metaphors and develops a broader approach that critically delves into the imaginative world views that determine understanding of the world and human existence. Examining the roles of the metaphors of ghosts, monsters, pilgrims, prophets, and relics, ten Have illustrates how science and medicine are animated by imaginations that fuel the search for hope, salvation, healing, and a predictable future. Bizarre Bioethics invites students, researchers, policymakers and teachers interested in ethics and health care to think about the value perspectives on health and disease today.

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Bizarre Bioethics

Henk A.M.J. ten Have, MD, PhD

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Reviews

Reviews

An excellent book, clear and engaging. Ten Have has been involved in several discipline-shaping research endeavors and is very well placed to write a reflective meta-essay on the state of play in bioethics and to describe a vision for its future.

Of all bioethics books published during the last 50 years, this one is by far the most original and thought provoking.

Bizarre Bioethics is an unsettling book. ten Have is acutely critical in showing that current bioethical debates are preoccupied with extraordinary cases that provide distorted views of reality. The book urges a shift from this vertical and episodic bioethics focused on individual issues to a bioethics framed by collective, horizontal, and permanent situations.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
328
ISBN
9781421443034
Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Questioning the Paradigm of Bioethics
Chapter 2. The Establishment of Bioethics
Chapter 3. Ghosts
Chapter 4. Monsters
Chapter 5. Pilgrims
Chapter 6. Prophets
Chapter 7. Relics
Chapter 8. Critical

Chapter 1. Questioning the Paradigm of Bioethics
Chapter 2. The Establishment of Bioethics
Chapter 3. Ghosts
Chapter 4. Monsters
Chapter 5. Pilgrims
Chapter 6. Prophets
Chapter 7. Relics
Chapter 8. Critical Bioethics
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Henk A.M.J. ten Have, MD, PhD

Henk A.M.J. ten Have, MD, PhD (AMSTERDAM, NL) is a research professor in bioethics at Universidad Anáhuac México and professor emeritus at Duquesne University's Center for Healthcare Ethics. He is the author of Wounded Planet: How Declining Biodiversity Endangers Health and How Bioethics Can Help and the coauthor of Bioethics, Healthcare and the Soul.