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Bioethics in America

Origins and Cultural Politics

In Bioethics in America, Tina Stevens challenges the view that the origins of the bioethics movement can be found in the 1960s, a decade mounting challenges to all variety of authority. Instead, Stevens sees bioethics as one more product of a "centuries-long cultural legacy of American ambivalence toward progress," and she finds its modern roots in the responsible science movement that emerged following detonation of the atomic bomb.

Rather than challenging authority, she says, the bioethics movement was an aid to authority, in that it allowed medical doctors and researchers to proceed on course while bioethicists managed public fears about medicine's new technologies. That is, the public was reassured by bioethical oversight of biomedicine; in reality, however, bioethicists belonged to the same mainstream that produced the doctors and researchers whom the bioethicists were guiding.

About the Author

M. L. Tina Stevens teaches in the history department at San Francisco State University.

Reviews

"Ultimately, the innovations and court decisions most associated with bioethics, Stevens shows, were less rooted in concern about the abuse of patients than in researchers' and biomedical institutions' desires for the freedom to pursue new medical technologies and their need for protection from legal liability. Bioethics has served more as a 'midwife' to new medical research and technologies than as a critic. These findings should concern all of us. Steven's critical analysis of bioethics is a valuable revision."—Leslie J. Reagan, American Historical Review

"An interesting and provocative book, well worth reading for the issues it raises as well as for the historical analysis of the bioethics movement."—Audrey K. Gordon, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine

"Bioethics in America merits our attention. It will encourage additional reflection on the sources and meaning of the rise of this new profession dedicated to moral arbitration."—Raymond DeVries, Journal of American History

"Stevens has a pithy prose style and a healthy willingness to challenge received wisdom."—Robert Baker, Ph.D, Journal of the History of Medicine

"A major contribution to the history of bioethics."—Choice

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