Three Ways to Politicize Bioethics
Brown, Mark B.
American Journal of Bioethics 2009 February; 9(2): 43-54
Many commentators today lament the politicization of bioethics, but some suggest distinguishing among different kinds of politicization. This essay pursues that idea with reference to three traditions of political thought: liberalism, communitarianism, and republicanism. After briefly discussing the concept of politicization itself, the essay examines how each of these political traditions manifests itself in recent bioethics scholarship, focusing on the implications of each tradition for the design of government bioethics councils. The liberal emphasis on the irreducible plurality of values and interests in modern societies, and the communitarian concern with the social dimensions of biotechnology, offer important insights for bioethics councils. The essay finds the most promise in the republican tradition, however, which emphasizes institutional mechanisms that allow bioethics councils to enrich but not dominate public deliberation, while ensuring that government decisions on bioethical issues are publicly accountable and contestable.
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