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Bioethics Briefing Book now Available Free Online 36 backgrounders on leading bioethics issues include expert contacts and campaign positions

October 2, 2008

(Garrison, NY)  From Birth to Death and Bench to Clinic: The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefing Book for Journalists, Policymakers, and Campaigns  is now available free online. The Briefing Book is designed to give journalists, policymakers, and political campaigns the tools they need to best write and respond to the challenges posed by advances in medicine and science that directly affect individuals, families, and communities. The goal is to provide the book’s users with a comprehensive starting place from which to write an article, seek guests for a television interview, find experts to testify in Congress, or seek the bipartisan solutions that are at the heart of our social system. As TIME magazine editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs writes in her framing essay to the Briefing Book, journalists need to pave the way for a “whole new kind of conversation” about what it means to be human--one in which “bioethicists play a fateful role.”

Public policy on issues in bioethics is particularly important at this juncture. The 2008 presidential candidates have positions on abortion, cloning, health care reform, and stem cells, and Congress has introduced or is debating legislation on personalized medicine, health care reform, end of life care, abortion, clinical trials, nanotechnology, and torture, among other bioethics issues.

The 36 chapters in the Briefing Book provide concise backgrounders on these issues—both familiar concerns such as health care reform and newer ones emerging out of biotechnology. Each chapter outlines both the science and the range of ethical considerations raised. Each chapter also includes a click-able list of experts to contact, websites and other resources for story ideas, and links to relevant legislation and campaign positions.

A series of framing essays illustrate just what is at stake for journalists and policymakers at the front lines of these critical issues. In addition to the essay by Nancy Gibbs, Hastings Center President Tom Murray describes the growing relevance of bioethics to public policy and the impetus for the Briefing Book; and Center co-founder Dan Callahan reflects on the historical role of bioethics in policy, and its particular relevance to health care reform.

The volume is grounded in the Hastings Center mantra that good ethics begins with good facts. Hence each of the entries includes careful description of the relevant science, social science, statistics, legal history, and other research. As for the bioethical considerations at the heart of the entries: The Hastings Center methodology, refined over four decades as a way to approach often thorny ethical concerns, is nonpartisan and multidisciplinary. It is also multiperspective—all reasonable voices deserve to be heard, with the aim of finding, if not consensus, then at least understanding and respect. We welcome your feedback, both on this edition, and on future ones, at