chapter  15
15 Pages

Bioethics in academic rooms: hearing other voices, living in other rooms


Bioethics, born in the twentieth century, has been consumed with autonomy. Seen in its historical context, the occupation with autonomy makes sense. Bioethics began as an effort to ‘speak truth to power’ – it was a part of the ‘rights movements’ of the 1960s and 1970s (civil rights, the women’s health movement, animal rights), with a desire to make a strong statement that the medical-industrial complex must not be allowed to run roughshod over the best interests of research subjects and patients. In the wake of atrocities committed on individuals in the name of science – the Nazi experiments, Tuskegee, the Willowbrook State School, the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital, and abuses brought to light by Beecher and Pappworth (Rothman, 1992) – this emphasis on autonomy was fitting.