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From the Editor: Bioethics and Addiction

Abstract: Bioethicists have sometimes regarded the opioid epidemic as a problem with obvious answers and thus no need for the field’s conceptual analysis. Yet, as three essays in the July-August 2020 issue of the Hastings Center Report demonstrate, the opioid crisis contains a knot of distinctions and puzzles to be sorted out. Travis N. Rieder examines, for example, what is fundamentally driving the crisis—access to the drugs or large societal problems such as poverty and joblessness. The role of choice in addiction, the effects of moral condemnation on approaches to addiction, and what treatment should look like are among the puzzles Hanna Pickard explores, while Daniel S. Goldberg focuses on the common and harmful conflation of the public health problems of substance misuse and pain. These philosophical and bioethical questions point in widely different directions, lying both inside and outside bioethics. They point toward systemic societal factors that determine health and well-being yet have seemed outside bioethics’ largely clinical boundaries. And they point toward a deeper look at the very idea of autonomy—an examination of a topic clearly within bioethics yet occurring at the fringes of its usual constructs.

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