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Book and Media Reviews
May 23/30, 2007

Global Bioethics: The Collapse of Consensus

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 2007;297(20):2287-2291. doi:10.1001/jama.297.20.2287

Dreaming of a global bioethics? The day when bioethics will bequeath to the world a universally applicable set of moral norms that will transcend cultural and religious diversity and lead to fair, rational resolutions to bioethical dilemmas everywhere? Dream on, say the contributors to this intriguing collection of essays. We are standing in the “ruins of attempts at global bioethics” (p vii).

In 2 crisp introductory chapters, editor H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr assembles evidence to support this claim. Culture wars have fragmented bioethics into rival camps. Competing groups, each adhering to a different worldview, endlessly dispute the major issues of human life: sexuality, reproduction, allocation of resources, the significance of suffering and dying. It is impossible to resolve controversies through rational argument because people disagree about the “foundational character of morality itself” (p 2).

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