ernment employees in policy or regulatory positions, and as members of public committees and commissions dealing with ethical issues.

Academic bioethics should be distinguished from what might be called professional bioethics, whose practitioners (such as physicians, nurses, and scientists) undertake to learn about the ethical standards and issues in their professional practices. They may utilize the work of academic bioethics and invite scholars to join their discussions as consultants, but their engagement tends to reflect the exigencies of their work more strongly than the theoretical and analytic features of academic bioethics. This is practical bioethics in the most commendable sense: individuals become competent-sometimes quite competent-in a subject, but work at it primarily as an adjunct to their primary occupation.

Academic bioethics can also be distinguished from popular bioethics, popular moral discourse that concentrates on issues in medicine, health care, and the biomedical sciences. Thus, public debate over genetic engineering or assisted suicide, carried out in many different forums and manifested in the media, constitutes popular bioethics. In this format, it is the story rather than the analysis that prevails. Participants in this ''amateur" bioethics may become interested enough to learn something about ethical analysis, but do so casually and often without rigorous scholarship or argument. Sometimes, popular bioethics may be drafted into the service of strongly held ideologies and become quite sophisticated, although no longer impartial.

If public moral discourse is taken in the strictest sense, as the deliberately organized effort to marshall evidence and considered opinion with the purpose of formulating a broadly acceptable analysis or policy about an issue, then there must be an attempt to integrate these three sources, using each according to its appropriate contribution to the debate. What then is the proportionate contribution of academic bioethics, in relation to professional and popular bioethics, and indeed in relation to other forms of discourse in a democratic society, such as legal, economic, political, and religious? The primary task of any public body charged with providing a forum for public moral discourse is to orchestrate these various perspectives.


Academic bioethics came into being when persons other than physicians started to scrutinize the moral dimensions of the practices of medicine. There is a long history of physicians doing so, but only rarely did nonphysicians comment in a scholarly manner on the work of physicians. If a date is to be found for the earliest suggestion of an academic bioethics, it might be 1927. In that year, Chauncey Leake, a distinguished pharmacologist, but not a physician, published the first modern edition of Thomas

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