Changing Nature's Course: The Ethical Challenge of Biotechnology

By Gerhold K. Becker; James P. Buchanan | Go to book overview

11
Anthropology as the Basis of Bioethics

Reinhard Löw (‡)

Bioethics, under this name a rather young philosophical discipline, is concerned with the ethical problems of biology and medicine including ecological questions. Its current, sometimes explosive, importance is drawn from the immensely enlarged possibilities of analysis and manipulation in modern biology (above all in molecular biology) as well as in reproductive and intensive care medicine. These fields raise questions, which engage symposia, academies and civic colleges everywhere: whether we may do everything we can do, whether we need a new ethic adapted to the new situation, whether all such achievements are in fact diabolic, and the like. In some sectors, as in the debate on genetics, the opposite points of view take on an ideological character when it comes to questions of the manipulation of human bodies, from the fertilization of egg cells to the artificial maintenance of a corpse for the sole purpose of supplying organs. Here it seems as if several articles of constitutional law and/or medical maxims all stand in stalemate against each other: the dignity of a single human being and its right to life, e.g. against the freedom of research or the protection of the family, or the patient's will against his well-being, and his own well-being against that of others in the future. The constellations are as numerous in their sheer possibilities, as they are in their actual occurrence in the present-day practice of biologists and medical people.

For the following considerations the wide field of bioethics will be limited to the core of its fundamental meaning for human bioethics. The competing conceptions of what it means to be human are nevertheless just as fundamental for the broader sector dealing with animals 1 in exploitation and experiment as they are for the whole field of nature in general. 2 The human sector is exceptional among them in as much as human beings are both subjects and

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