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Bioethics and Populism: How Should Our Field Respond?

Across the world, an authoritarian and exclusionary form of populism is gaining political traction. Historically, some populist movements have been democratic and based on a sense of inclusive justice and the common good. But the populism on the rise at present speaks and acts otherwise. It is challenging constitutional democracies. The polarization seen in authoritarian populism goes beyond the familiar left-right political spectrum and generates disturbing forms of extremism, including the so-called alternative right in the United States and similar ethnic and nationalistic political movements in other countries. The field of bioethics will be profoundly affected if authoritarian populism displaces constitutional democracy. But the field has a significant contribution to make to rebuilding the communal and civic foundations upon which constitutional democracy rests.

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