Bioethics needs to rethink its agenda

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 15 January 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:175
  1. Leigh Turner, assistant professor (
  1. biomedical ethics unit, McGill University, Montreal

    What issues belong at the top of the agenda in bioethics? What important topics are commonly ignored? Does bioethics matter? As someone who writes about bioethics one of the lessons I have learnt is that the articles that typically attract the attention of editors and readers are the manuscripts addressing “sexy” topics. Ambitious researchers in bioethics know that if they want to obtain research funds and draw attention to their work they should focus on such topics as embryonic stem cell research, germ line gene therapy, and therapeutic and reproductive cloning. These topics practically sell themselves.

    Not long ago researchers examining ethical issues in medicine and health care had a different focus. In the 1980s and 1990s the study of ethical issues in palliative care generated hundreds of articles, as doctors, philosophers, and lawyers addressed such topics as the withdrawal of fluids and nutrition, …

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