Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal
Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia Campus,
Virginia Commonwealth University.
Bioethics is a large, diverse, and ever-expanding field. It has grown
to encompass everything from classic considerations of patient autonomy to
questions of patent law in drug development to homeland security.
It is difficult to characterize bioethics in any overarching manner,
but there tend to be two basic angles of approach to addressing these issues.
The first involves situations in which a medical professional has a particular
goal in mind (say, recruiting participants to a clinical trial), and the bioethicist
offers advice on how best to accomplish the goal in a manner that is understood
to be ethical. This type of bioethics is primarily procedural in orientation,
enabling medical professionals and corporations to achieve their goals ethically.
The second type of approach involves the articulation of substantive goals
that ought to be pursued as good in themselves. This type of bioethics is
more directive and often oppositional. Its aim is not to enable the achievement
of preset goals so much as to take a hand in shaping those goals themselves.
Kahn J. Ethics, Rights, Law. JAMA. 2005;294(5):628-629. doi:10.1001/jama.294.5.628