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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.

A national ethics committee and bioethics during the 1990s

6 Consolidating the ‘ethics industry’: a national ethics committee and bioethics during the 1990s During the 1980s many of the individuals who were pivotal to the making of British bioethics sought to establish what the British Medical Journal identified as a ‘national bioethics committee’.1 Ian Kennedy, for one, regularly called for a politically funded committee based on the American President’s Commission, and his proposals were often endorsed by newspapers and other bioethicists. They were also endorsed by senior figures at the BMA, who believed a national

in The making of British bioethics
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, law, sociology, theology and the general public.12 Senator Edward Kennedy, a critical figure in the Commission’s formation, argued that policy should not emanate ‘just from the medical profession, but from ethicists, the theologians, the lawyers and many other disciplines’.13 This Commission was widely recognised as the first national bioethics committee, and in 1978 its recommendations led President Jimmy Carter to establish a permanent Presidential Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research.14 These events

in The making of British bioethics
Ian Kennedy, oversight and accountability in the 1980s

’s Dilemmas, it noted that if ‘difficulties and decisions were aired more widely, decision-making might be more even and suspicions might be allayed’.155 And in another article, entitled 126 The making of British bioethics ‘Who’s for Bioethics Committees?’, the Lancet reiterated that bioethics would safeguard ‘not only patients but also doctors and the institutions in which they work’. Outside involvement, it concluded, would help doctors develop guidelines, prevent litigation and ration ‘the available and now inadequate resources of the National Health Service’.156

in The making of British bioethics
Open Access (free)

regulatory landscape also underpinned the reconstitution of the HGC as an Emerging Bioethics and Advisory Committee (ESBAC) in 2011, which was tasked with advising ministers and relevant stakeholders on ‘emerging healthcare scientific developments and their ethical, legal, social and economic implications’.57 While ESBAC had a wider remit than the HGC, committee members and the Department of Health were clear it should not be regarded as a national bioethics committee.58 The government’s austerity programme, meanwhile, ensured that ESBAC had fewer financial resources than

in The making of British bioethics
Mary Warnock, embryos and moral expertise

terms of their ability to make autonomous choices.220 The synergy between Warnock and the government’s view of ethics, their shared distrust of experts and belief in oversight, all help explain why she became ‘synonymous with British bioethics’ during the 1980s.221 After being appointed to the House of Lords as a cross-bench peer in 1985, Warnock contributed the first two articles to a new journal of Bioethics, continued to publicly discuss the ethics of IVF, gene therapy and animal experiments, endorsed the formation of a national bioethics committee, and was the

in The making of British bioethics