What is Bioethics?
Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues raised by the biological and medical sciences, and of questions of life and death as they arise in the context of healthcare. It seeks to address question such as:
- Do foetuses have a right to life?
- Is there a difference between killing and ‘letting die’?
- Is there anything wrong with human cloning?
- Does society have an obligation to provide universal healthcare?
- What are the social and political implications of the new genetic technologies?
Bioethics is a fascinating, challenging, enjoyable, and intensely relevant field of study, which draws on philosophy, science, sociology, and other disciplines, in the attempt to answer these and similar questions. It is an area of philosophy where the practical applications are obvious and where developments in the sciences continually pose new problems and open up new areas of research.
It is a fact of modern life that most individuals will, at some stage of their lives, face decisions which involve fundamental questions in bioethics. Whether it’s choosing whether or not to have a child, deciding to become an organ donor, considering being tested for a genetic condition, or making a decision about the care of elderly parents, most of us will not be able to avoid confronting bioethical issues. Some of the most controversial and important public issues today are also questions of bioethics:
- What should the law say about abortion?
- Is there enough funding for public hospitals?
- Should the government fund stem cell research involving human embryos?
A knowledge of bioethics will empower you to make these decisions and to participate in these debates in an informed, critical and effective manner.
Why study Bioethics?
The study of bioethics, like philosophy, develops skills in critical reasoning, argument, comprehension, communication, research, and logical analysis, at the highest level. These are the skills that employers look for in today’s world, where flexibility and the ability to adapt to rapid change are essential prerequisites for a successful career. Graduates with a knowledge of bioethics may be especially attractive to employers in the areas of genetics, health science, medical practice, research, government, law, and social policy.
More importantly, the critical reasoning skills developed in bioethics are skills that you can apply elsewhere in your studies and in your life. They help you develop your ideas and present them effectively. They assist you in thinking about your values, the choices you face, and the way you live. They help you to understand and to analyse arguments about the way the world is, and to consider how the world should be; they are also some of the skills necessary to change it.
If you would like to discuss the possibility of studying bioethics, please contact Justin Oakley here in the Centre.