States and Moral Pluralism

By Fossett, James W.; Ouellette, Alicia R. et al. | The Hastings Center Report, November-December 2007 | Go to article overview

States and Moral Pluralism


Fossett, James W., Ouellette, Alicia R., Philpott, Sean, Magnus, David, McGee, Glenn, The Hastings Center Report


Bioethicists are often interested mostly in national standards and institutions, but state governments have historically overseen a wide range of bioethical issues and share responsibility with the federal government for still others. States ought to have an important role. By allowing for multiple outcomes, the American federal system allows a better fit between public opinion and public policies.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.... A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power ... have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.... [T]he CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and ... relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

--Federalist, No. 10

Bioethicists can be fairly accused of wanting to solve complex problems with single standards and national institutions. Both liberal and conservative bioethicists have pressed for national standards administered by federal agencies across a wide variety of issues, ranging from research ethics and assisted reproduction to the governance and financing of stem cell research. Despite this national focus, states have been and will continue to be principal players in bioethical decision-making. By contrast with other disciplines, bioethics has paid little systematic attention to the division of labor between state and federal governments. As a consequence, it has not adequately understood how federalism affects the development of policy and the rights of individuals.

The premise of this paper is that bioethicists' neglect of federalism is a mistake on two levels: it gets the facts wrong, and it downplays the important benefits of the division of power between the states and the federal government. Rather than being peripheral actors, state legislatures and courts have been and continue to be major participants in the establishment and implementation of bioethics policy. Moreover, state activism in bioethics is not a bad thing. A federalist system--a system that distinguishes between the limited but supreme powers of a central government on the one hand and the broad sovereign powers of each of the states on the other--offers considerable advantages in managing the political conflicts that inevitably arise from moral pluralism, particularly around questions where there is no clear national consensus. Attention to federalism is especially critical now, given the many current and emerging issues that either touch areas where states are already major actors or seem likely to produce the divided views among both policy-makers and the public that have driven recent state activism.

This paper develops these arguments in five parts. First it examines the current state of federalism in bioethical discussions. The second part then documents the states' current role as major actors across a wide range of bioethical issues and notes several factors that enhance state influence. The third presents the normative case for a larger state role in bioethical decision-making. Fourth, we offer two case studies that illustrate the empirical and normative features of the federal system in making decisions about bioethical issues. And finally, we consider the questions that need to be addressed in a "federalist" approach to bioethics in which both state and federal governments are recognized as important actors.

Federalism and Bioethics: Pluralism without Representation

The notion that questions of federalism have not received adequate attention in bioethical discussion should not be controversial. Bioethicists have had notably more to say about what happens in Washington than about events in state capitals.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

States and Moral Pluralism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.