We are approaching the day when advances in biotechnology will allow parents to “design” a baby with the traits they want. The continuing debate over the possibilities of genetic engineering has been spirited, but so far largely confined to the realms of bioethics and public policy. Design and Destiny approaches the question in religious terms, discussing human germline modification (the genetic modification of the embryonic cells that become the eggs or sperm of a developing organism) from the viewpoints of traditional Christian and Jewish teaching.
Governments, health professionals, patients, research institutions, and research subjects look to bioethicists for guidance in making important decisions about medical treatment and research. And yet, argues Jonathan Baron in Against Bioethics, applied bioethics lacks the authority of a coherent guiding theory and is based largely on intuitive judgments. Baron proposes an alternative, arguing that bioethics could have a coherent theory based on utilitarianism and decision analysis. Utilitarianism holds that the best option is the one that does the most expected good.
In Looking Within, Deborah Blizzard examines the high-risk in utero surgery known as fetoscopy, considering it as both cutting-edge medical technology and as a sociocultural construction of patients, their social networks, and medical providers. She looks at the way individual experiences shape these procedures and how fetoscopy affects individuals (both patients and providers) on a personal, emotional level.
This examination of end-of-life decision making offers a broader perspective than that found in the extensive existing literature on this topic by offering a cross-national comparison. Experts from twelve countries analyze death-related issues and policies in their respective nations, discussing such topics as health care costs, advance directives or wills, pain management, and cultural, social, and religious factors.
With A Theory of General Ethics Warwick Fox both defines the field of General Ethics and offers the first example of a truly general ethics. Specifically, he develops a single, integrated approach to ethics that encompasses the realms of interhuman ethics, the ethics of the natural environment, and the ethics of the built environment.
Is medical ethics in times of armed conflict identical to medical ethics in times of peace, as the World Medical Association declares? In Bioethics and Armed Conflict, the first comprehensive study of medical ethics in conventional, unconventional, and low-intensity war, Michael Gross examines the dilemmas that arise when bioethical principles clash with military necessity—when physicians try to save lives during an endeavor dedicated to taking them—and describes both the conflicts and congruencies of military and medical ethics.
The principle of patient autonomy dominates the contemporary debate over medical ethics. In this examination of the doctor-patient relationship, physician and philosopher Alfred Tauber argues that the idea of patient autonomy—which was inspired by other rights-based movements of the 1960s—was an extrapolation from political and social philosophy that fails to ground medicine's moral philosophy. He proposes instead a reconfiguration of personal autonomy and a renewed commitment to an ethics of care.
The provocative contention of the postmodernist and feminist essays in Ethics of the Body is that conventional bioethics is out of touch, despite its growing profile. It is out of touch with an ongoing phenomenological sense of bodies themselves; with the impact of postmodernist theory as it problematizes the certainties of binary thinking; and with a postmodern culture in which bioscientific developments force us to question what is meant by the notion of the human self.
Is DNA technology the ultimate diviner of guilt or the ultimate threat to civil liberties? Over the past decade, DNA has been used to exonerate hundreds and to convict thousands. Its expanded use over the coming decade promises to recalibrate significantly the balance between collective security and individual freedom. For example, it is possible that law enforcement DNA databases will expand to include millions of individuals not convicted of any crime.
As our scientific and technical abilities expand at breathtaking speeds, concern that modern genetics and bioengineering are leading us to a posthuman future is growing. Is Human Nature Obsolete? poses the overarching question of what it is to be human against the background of these current advances in biotechnology.