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Hastings Center Report

Activism and Bioethics: Taking a Stand on Things That Matter

Abstract: The question of whether activism should be overtly embraced as part of the bioethicist’s role deserves serious consideration. Like others, we agree that bioethics is inescapably partisan; bioethical deliberation is based on trying to determine morally relevant features of situations and morally justifiable outcomes. Where disagreement arises is over the degree to which bioethicists should be activists. Meyers argues for a somewhat circumscribed role, limited to action on ethically concerning institutional matters, for those who are financially independent of the institutions. We take a broader view, arguing that some issues are so morally egregious that there is a duty to take a stand against them, even if the prospects of success are dim. There is a need for further debate, sharing of experiences, and analysis of case studies, to support bioethicists who take a stand. 

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