The international growth and influence of bioethics has led some to identify it as a decisive shift in the location and exercise of 'biopower'. This book provides an in-depth study of how philosophers, lawyers and other 'outsiders' came to play a major role in discussing and helping to regulate issues that used to be left to doctors and scientists. It discusses how club regulation stemmed not only from the professionalising tactics of doctors and scientists, but was compounded by the 'hands-off' approach of politicians and professionals in fields such as law, philosophy and theology. The book outlines how theologians such as Ian Ramsey argued that 'transdisciplinary groups' were needed to meet the challenges posed by secular and increasingly pluralistic societies. It also examines their links with influential figures in the early history of American bioethics. The book centres on the work of the academic lawyer Ian Kennedy, who was the most high-profile advocate of the approach he explicitly termed 'bioethics'. It shows how Mary Warnock echoed governmental calls for external oversight. Many clinicians and researchers supported her calls for a 'monitoring body' to scrutinise in vitro fertilisation and embryo research. The growth of bioethics in British universities occurred in the 1980s and 1990s with the emergence of dedicated centres for bioethics. The book details how some senior doctors and bioethicists led calls for a politically-funded national bioethics committee during the 1980s. It details how recent debates on assisted dying highlight the authority and influence of British bioethicists.
The idea for this volume emerged from a conference held at the University of Exeter in 2016 as part of a broader research project investigating histories of concepts of balance in medicine. The papers presented, and subsequent discussion, developed our thinking about the relationships between contemporary discourses of balance and individual responsibility in the regulation of health in new directions, and we would like to thank the participants for their engagement and insight. Both were crucial in the genesis of this collection. Likewise, neither the conference nor this volume would have been possible without the generous support of the Wellcome Trust (Grant Reference 100601/Z/12/Z) and the broader Balance project team of Fred Cooper, Natasha Feiner, Ali Haggett, Nicos Kefalas, Ayesha Nathoo and Claire Keyte, to whom we are deeply grateful.
Collaboration with the scholars whose work appears in these pages has been a thoroughly enjoyable and intellectually enriching endeavour. We would like to thank them for their enthusiasm and engagement, which has not waned over the years it takes to get a volume like this to print. Equally, a great debt is owed to our series editor, David Cantor, for his encouragement and feedback on the manuscript at crucial stages, as well as to the team at Manchester University Press for their constant assistance throughout the production process. We would also like to thank colleagues at the Centre for Medical History and Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health for providing such open and collegiate atmospheres, from which volumes like these can emerge.
Finally, both editors would like to thank their families for their limitless understanding and support during the editing of this volume. It is to Siobhán, Ciara, Riordan, Conall and Lucy that we would like to dedicate the following work.
The editors and author would like to acknowledge that sections of Alex Mold’s chapter were previously published in Alex Mold, ‘“Everybody likes a drink. Nobody likes a drunk”: Alcohol, Health Education and the Public in 1970s Britain’, Social History of Medicine, 30:3 (2017), 612–36.