Duncan Wilson
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‘Who’s for bioethics?’
Ian Kennedy, oversight and accountability in the 1980s
in The making of British bioethics

Bioethics ceased to be an 'American trend' during the 1980s, when growing numbers of British outsiders publicly demanded greater external involvement in the development of guidelines for medicine and biological science. In 1980, Ian McColl Kennedy used the prestigious BBC Reith Lectures to endorse the approach that he explicitly labelled 'bioethics', critiquing self-regulation and calling for external involvement in the development of professional standards. Kennedy was keen to distance his proposed body from 'paternalistic' organisations such as the General Medical Council (GMC). In the updated edition of Unmasking Medicine and a 1984 article for the Criminal Law Review, Kennedy also reassured doctors that he was not advocating outside involvement on a case-by-case basis in 'a ghastly on-site Committee'. Recruiting individuals such as Kennedy to professional bodies helped doctors appear publicly accountable, which safeguarded them from political criticism.

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