Ian Ramsey, theology and ‘trans-disciplinary’ medical ethics

in The making of British bioethics

During the 1960s and 1970s Anglican theologians increasingly endorsed 'trans-disciplinary' discussion of new procedures such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in societies and journals dedicated to medical ethics. Figures such as Ian Ramsey, an Oxford theologian and later Bishop of Durham, endorsed greater engagement with social and moral issues to maintain the Church's relevance in the face of increasing secularisation. He viewed theologians as the 'common link' who facilitated debates between 'experts in different disciplines and from different occupations'. This was especially the case for discussions of medical and biological research, which Ramsey considered to be the major source of 'frontier problems' in the 1960s and 1970s. Joseph Fletcher, professor of Christian ethics at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was one of first American theologians to look at scientific and medical ethics.

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