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Book and Media Reviews
February 2, 2011

Feminist Bioethics: At the Center, On the Margins

JAMA. 2011;305(5):511-512. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.65

In Feminist Bioethics: At the Center, on the Margins, editors Jackie Scully, Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven, and Petya Fitzpatrick present essays from 14 contributors to demonstrate how feminist bioethics differs from mainstream bioethics in its philosophy, perspectives, and application. In their introduction to the first section, the editors quote Rawlinson in defining bioethics as an “ethics founded and reflective of life” (p 1). They go on to state that “Feminist bioethics starts from the premise that dominant ways of doing bioethics are fundamentally gendered and that they thus contribute to culturally inscribed oppressive practices. . . . mainstream ways of doing bioethics marginalize women's interests and relegate women (and other socially and politically vulnerable people) to a position of moral inferiority” (p 3). To the question of why this might be so they maintain that “First, the subject matter of bioethics often reflects, wittingly or not, masculine experience and masculine priorities. Second, the ontological and epistemological foundations of bioethics currently privilege ways of being and knowing that are culturally masculine, and thus inherently devalue that which is (culturally constructed as) feminine” (p 3).

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