Thinking ethics: doing ethics

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Thematic : Rights and freedoms / Clauses of conscience

Studies

Published on : 02/01/2006

Author / Source : Margaret Somerville

Professor in the Faculty of Medicine
Founding Director of the Faculty of Law's Centre for Medicine,
Ethics and Law at McGill University

Contemporary debates around the ethics of the new technoscience are the crucible in which some of our most important shared values as a society will be forged. We have always formed those values around the two great events in each human life, birth and death. The new science has the potential to radically change both those events. Whether it will and to what extent depends on our decisions about the ethics that should govern it.   

That we would disagree on at least some of the answers to the ethics issues posed by the new science is to be expected. But rather than bemoan our disagreements, we should welcome them, because they signal that we are engaging in “ethics talk”. That talk requires a broadly based, public conversation on the ethics that should govern scientific and technological innovation and the unprecedented powers over life it has given us.  Disagreement is also important because it's in exploring our disagreements, rather than where we agree, that we are most likely to find new insights about ethics.

 

Thinking Ethics, Doing Ethics” in Jonathan Mills (ed), Ethically Challenged: Big Questions for Science, The Alfred Deakin Debate, The Miegunyah Press; Victoria, 2007, pp. 68-98

  • ethics education
  • health policy
  • ethics committee

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