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. The authors demonstrate that the conventional normative framework of bioethics is called into question by issues as wide ranging as genetic manipulation, disability, high-tech prosthetics, and intersexuality. The essays show how both the theory and practice of bioethics can benefit from postmodernism's characteristic fluidity and multiplicity, as well as from the insights of a reconceived feminist bioethics. They address issues in philosophy, law, bioscientific research, psychiatry, cultural studies, and feminism from a "postconventional" perspective that looks beyond the familiar ideas of the body, proposing not a bioethics about the body but a radical ethics of the body.
After exploring notions of difference in both feminist and postmodernist terms, the book considers specific issues—including HIV, addiction, borderline personality disorder, and cancer—that challenge the principles of conventional bioethics. The focus then turns to questions raised by biotechnology: one essay rethinks the traditional feminist ethics of care in the context of new reproductive technology, while others tackle genetic and genomic issues. Finally, the book looks at embodiment and some specifically anomalous forms of being-in-the-body, including a consideration of intersex infants and children that draws on feminist, postructuralist, and queer theory.