Bioethics as Practice

Bioethics as Practice

Bioethics as Practice

Bioethics as Practice

Synopsis

Writing as a participant in the bioethics field, Andre offers a model to unify its diversity. Using the term "bioethics" broadly, to include all the medical humanities, she articulates ideals for the field, identifies its temptations and moral pitfalls, and argues for the central importance of certain virtues.

Excerpt

In 1991, after eighteen years of teaching philosophy in traditional academic settings, I took a position in bioethics at Michigan State University. I found the transition more diffcult than I had expected. I had moved before, far too often; I belong to the academic generation known as "gypsy scholars, ” forced by the lack of jobs to move from state to state in pursuit of work. During the 1970s I taught at seven different colleges and universities in six cities (and four states) before finding a tenure-stream position at Old Dominion University. I had found those seven institutions fundamentally alike. Moving so often, and such distances, was hard, but I knew what I had to do to begin again: find a place to live, reach out for friends, and find out where the chalk was kept and how to use the photocopier.

The move to Michigan State should have been easier than the earlier ones. For the first time, I was moving voluntarily, leaving a tenured position and choosing between two offers elsewhere; and in a sense I was coming home, as I had done my graduate work here. I was joining a unit with national stature and a set of enviably fine colleagues. Part of the unexpected pain came from the fact that my ten years at Old Dominion had been so rewarding—for the first time, moving meant leaving behind something solid and good. But part of the problem was also culture shock. There were deeper things to learn than where the chalk was kept. Although I had taught bioethics to undergraduates and done several fellowships in the field, there was virtually nothing in my new occupation that corresponded to what I had been doing for so long. The difference was not primarily a matter of knowledge (I did have a lot to learn, but I knew how to study). The difference was practical: the structure of the courses in which I taught, the forums for which I wrote, and the ways in which I served the community were all new.

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