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Book and Media Reviews
August 12, 2009

The Future of Bioethics

JAMA. 2009;302(6):695. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1169

As for the future, your task is not to foresee it but to enable it.—Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands

As a physician and bioethicist, Howard Brody has 35 years of exceptionally rich experience to offer not only the bioethics community but all who are interested in health care. In his latest book, he skillfully combines academic analysis with personal reflection to create a unique and inspirational work.

Brody's aim is to highlight what he perceives to be omissions in the field of bioethics and to elucidate neglected but significant areas of study for bioethicists. The result is a book determinedly not concerned with the “usual subjects.” Brody decided to scrutinize the development of bioethics prospectively because, he says, “we live life forward not backward.” He reminds his readers that bioethics is a practice encompassing research as well as clinical and educational work drawing on diverse disciplines. The fundamental notion of bioethics as a practice is reflected throughout the book, which models multiple approaches to bioethics, eg, review and critique, academic and personal analyses, theoretical and applied perspectives, sociopolitical context, descriptive narrative, and quasi-campaigning appeals. Difficult authorial choices about inclusion have to be made in such a book, but Brody is always explicit about his choices and his reasons. And the chapters do engage with a wide range of important material that not only extends readers' knowledge but challenges them to reflect on what is “core” to bioethics and why.

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