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Duncan Wilson

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.

Open Access (free)

Duncan Wilson

groups. Teaching ethics, once a matter of professional etiquette, takes place on dedicated courses and in specialised departments that emphasise law and moral philosophy. A growing body of interdisciplinary journals considers topics that were once confined to the correspondence pages of the Lancet or the British Medical Journal. And public discussion of issues such as embryo research, cloning, genetic engineering or assisted dying are now as likely to be led by a lawyer or a philosopher as a doctor or a scientist. This new approach is known as ‘bioethics’: a neologism

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Consolidating the ‘ethics industry’

A national ethics committee and bioethics during the 1990s

Duncan Wilson

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

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‘A service to the community as a whole’

The emergence of bioethics in British universities

Duncan Wilson

5 ‘A service to the community as a whole’: the emergence of bioethics in British universities Bioethics made inroads into British universities during the 1980s, thanks largely to those individuals, groups and political changes that we have already encountered. During the late 1970s and early 1980s members of medical groups and public figures such as Ian Kennedy called for greater emphasis on medical ethics in student training. They also stressed the benefits of ‘non-medical’ input, claiming that it relieved clinicians from teaching responsibilities and would

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‘Who’s for bioethics?’

Ian Kennedy, oversight and accountability in the 1980s

Duncan Wilson

3 ‘Who’s for bioethics?’ Ian Kennedy, oversight and accountability in the 1980s 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. Their arguments were certainly successful. By the beginning of the 1990s, when the Guardian described the growing ‘ethics industry’, supporters of this new approach were influential public figures. One of the earliest and most high profile of these supporters was the

Open Access (free)

Duncan Wilson

Conclusion While she became associated with British bioethics following her engagement with IVF and embryo research in the 1980s, Mary Warnock is better known today for her views on euthanasia.1 Warnock first engaged with this issue in 1993, when she was appointed to a House of Lords Select Committee that investigated whether there were circumstances in which ‘assisted dying’ might be permissible, when a doctor would not be prosecuted for ending a patient’s life or helping them end their own lives. After deliberating for a year, Warnock and her fellow committee

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‘Where to draw the line?’

Mary Warnock, embryos and moral expertise

Duncan Wilson

’s involvement with IVF highlights the British emergence of what Jasanoff calls ‘official bioethics’, in which philosophers, lawyers and others serve on ­government committees and assist in policymaking.1 Once appointed, Warnock became a vocal supporter of external oversight. In language reminiscent of Conservative politicians and Ian Kennedy, she regularly argued that the public were ‘entitled to know, and even to control’ professional practices.2 Like Kennedy, she also claimed that this would benefit researchers by safeguarding them from declining public and political trust

Open Access (free)

Duncan Wilson

criticise procedures such as IVF and did not seek to involve themselves in medical decision-making. They also believed that the new ‘transdisciplinary’ societies and journals should be considered as medical bodies and should work to ‘safeguard the doctor’s role’.3 This stance ensured that while discussion of medical ethics increasingly involved professions other than doctors, it was still undertaken primarily for their benefit. Interdisciplinary debates in Britain consequently differed from those that were termed ‘bioethics’ in the United States, where outsiders publicly

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Ethics ‘by and for professions’

The origins and endurance of club regulation

Duncan Wilson

outsiders should play a role in formulating and administering a new statutory code for medical research. These factors have led some to claim that Pappworth is a significant figure in ‘the birth of British bioethics’.7 But while his work attracted public attention, it ultimately had little impact on the continuing support for club regulation among doctors, politicians and other professions. Despite Pappworth’s best efforts, outside involvement was dismissed as ‘quite impracticable’ and doctors were left, as before, to determine their own conduct and ethical standards

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Paul Greenough, Stuart Blume and Christine Holmberg

on a solid body of literature that links the nineteenth-century advent of public health immunisation to the consolidation and emergence of nation-states. For example, as Peter Baldwin has argued, smallpox vaccination in the early 1800s served to demonstrate the willingness of small, newly formed German states to protect their citizens. 6 On the other hand, assertive localism in Britain, motivated by a reluctance to experience