Bioethics for Scientists

Bioethics for Scientists

Bioethics for Scientists

Bioethics for Scientists


A dictionary definition of Bioethics is, 'the ethics, or moral principles and rules of conduct, of medical and biological research'. This book is an introductory text of just biological and not medical bioethics. It covers the ethics of experimentation, including genetic manipulation, in plants and animals; ethics and biodiversity, ethics and the environment.

There is increasing interest in bioethics - both in academia and by the media and the general public. Awareness of bioethics is incorporated into Biological / Environmental Science courses, plus the first dedicated modular courses on bioethics are starting up.

• Includes case studies

• Has questions for students

• Chapters include environmental, animal, agricultural and reproductive ethics as well as a wide range of issues regarding genetic manipulation.


We can trace the origins of this book back to two sources. The first of these is the place of science and technology within wider society. Science is not value free and we take issue with those who claim that it is so. Almost every new development in biomedical science has social and/or ethical implications. Furthermore, professionals in all fields, including science, are being reminded increasingly frequently of their responsibilities, not just within their own profession but to the wider community. Those responsibilities certainly include professional codes of practice but should also embody an appropriate concern for the way that 'society' makes use of, for example, scientific discoveries and inventions.

Scientists need to be able to enter the ethical debate: too much of the debate, especially in the media, is conducted with little scientific understanding. Scientists who recognise and understand the ethical dimension can make a major contribution. Increasing numbers of science (and especially, but not exclusively, biomedical science) students are recognising this and are thus eager to participate in courses that enable them to apply ethical principles to problems and situations arising within their academic disciplines.

This introduces the second source of the book. It has grown out of our work over the last 30 years: teaching undergraduates and postgraduates, involvement in adult education at different levels and engaging with high school students and other young people. Further, our particular areas of activity – molecular biology (JAB), human embryology and fertilisation (LBL), intensive care and palliative medicine (JFS) – have led to our grappling with the implications of the rapid developments in science and medicine for individuals and for society. Complex questions have arisen about how these developments should be used; about whether or not particular courses of action are right or wrong; what is the balance between benefit and harm of developments and treatments? Our thinking has often been clarified as we have debated these issues with colleagues in Exeter from a wide range of disciplines, some of whom have contributed to this book.

Not only have those colleagues contributed to this book but they also contribute to courses at Exeter for BSc, BSc(Ed) and MSc students. Indeed, it was the establishment of our teaching programme that actually led to the confluence of the two streams in the book's history. Courses were started partly because of a growing interest amongst students and partly because of our professional concerns and interests. Our teaching activities led us to realise that there was no single text that would help, for example, an undergraduate biologist or a student . . .

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