Everyday Bioethics: Reflections on Bioethical Choices in Daily Life

By Little, Bruce A. | Ethics & Medicine, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Everyday Bioethics: Reflections on Bioethical Choices in Daily Life


Little, Bruce A., Ethics & Medicine


Everyday Bioethics: Reflections on Bioethical Choices in Daily Life Giovanni Berlinguer Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc., 2003 ISBN 0-89503-225-2, 164 pp., hardcover, $38.00

Giovanni Berlinguer has crafted an informative and unique treatise on bioethics by placing the moral issues of medical technology of more recent times within the broader context of what he calls everyday bioethics. As he discusses the moral implications of issues related to recent biotechnology, Berlinguer pushes the reader to consider bioethics within a larger context of ethical issues that have plagued humanity for centuries. According to Berlinguer, bioethics as a subject is about the relationship between "frontier bioethics and everyday bioethics" (p. 148). By frontier he means ethical issues that confront mankind because of the life and death possibilities presented by recent technology. Everyday bioethics categorizes those ethical issues involving more general and historically recognized "moral reflections on birth, on the relations between men and women and among different human populations, on the treatment of the sick, on death, on the interdependence of human beings and other living creatures" (p. iii). He advances the idea that it is the interrelation of frontier and everyday bioethics that results in the most fruitful thinking about moral principles" that govern both (p. iv).

In chapter one Berlinguer looks at the plethora of moral issues surrounding procreation and birth, noting that one must give primary concern to the destiny of the child when considering the ethics of such matters. Human dignity must be protected and the child should never be treated either directly or indirectly in a way that would violate the Kantian precept that man should never be treated as a means. His fourth chapter on the human body pointedly confronts the reader with the moral schizophrenia of many Western cultures with respect to the human body. On the one hand there is a glorification of the human body, while on the other hand it has been reduced to a commodity where parts are traded on the internet and cloning is considered for the creation of spare parts. His concern is that "the role now played by the market has been forgotten or underestimated in the bioethical debate" (p. 91).

Berlinguer devotes chapter two to a discussion of the ethics of population policies (which has a long history) that involves everything from immigration laws to the definition of the family. He warns against imprecise terms in ethical debates as well as the misuse of statistics. He argues that there are three controlling concepts that must be applied to the ethics of populations-human rights, pluralism, and equity (in contradistinction to equality).

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