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Open Access (free)

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

scientists, the party is over’. 10 IVF often featured in popular coverage throughout the 1960s, following its application in animals and false reports of human successes. But it became synonymous with the ‘biological revolution’ in February 1969 after the Cambridge physiologists Robert Edwards and Barry Bavister, and the Oldham obstetrician Robert Steptoe, announced the successful formation of seven pro-nuclear zygotes among thirty-four mature human oocytes fertilised in vitro.11 An editorial in the edition of Nature that carried their paper attempted to forestall negative

Open Access (free)

‘Where to draw the line?’

Mary Warnock, embryos and moral expertise

Duncan Wilson

data to try and reconcile supporters and opponents of embryo research. Warnock argued that permitting experiments up to fourteen days after fertilisation, when antecedents of the nervous system began to form, would retain many utilitarian benefits while offending as few people as possible. But this decision was heavily criticised by other bioethicists, in addition to supporters and opponents of research. Despite the emergence of ‘official bioethics’, then, the question of ‘where to draw the line’, and who exactly should draw it, remained publicly contentious. From

Open Access (free)

Duncan Wilson

are sought-after ‘ethics experts’ with important positions on regulatory committees and considerable public authority.50 But our appreciation of how and why they attained this status is sketchy at best. Existing accounts, such as a chapter in the World History of Medical Ethics, adhere to the ‘origin myth’ model and claim that bioethics emerged in Britain after new technologies and radical politics fostered greater discussion of science and medicine during the 1960s and 1970s.51 But while issues such as clinical research and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) were