Bioethics and Bioterrorism
American bioethics is often more pragmatic than principled, and quickly crossed both health law and human rights boundaries in response to 9/11 and our new global war on terrorism. War and terrorism test our commitment to principles, especially legal principles, and can cause us to temporarily abandon them. Although it has been three years since 9/11, health law, bioethics, and human rights lessons can already be drawn from America's reaction to this unprecedented terrorist atrocity.
Fear makes it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, reality from fantasy, and truth from lies, all of which means that our initial reactions are likely to be overreactions that we will ultimately come to regret. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 both bioethics and human rights principles were compromised in America. Nonetheless, the premise of this opening chapter is that boundary crossings between the realms of bioethics, health law, and human rights, tentatively under way well before 9/11, take on more urgency in its wake.1 In fact, 9/11 itself could yet serve as a catalyst to bring these symbiotic fields even closer together—working synergistically to make the world a better place to live. Taking human rights, health law, and bioethics seriously makes the goals of health and safety of the public more