“… But you Cannot Influence the Direction of your Thinking”: Guiding Self-Government in Bioethics Policy Discourse

Bioethical Issues, Sociological Perspectives

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1438-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-501-7

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 1 January 2007


Since the beginning of the 1980s, we can observe the emergence and proliferation of different processes and institutions of ethical debate throughout Europe and the Western world; these processes and institutions are supposed to inform and improve opinion-building and decision-making processes in the policy field of the biosciences and especially biomedicine. National boards of ethics, ethics commissions, citizen's consultations or conferences have been established throughout; they all have in common the task to debate the ethical aspects of biomedical research and practice, and inform politics as well as the public about the ways of dealing with biomedicine in ‘ethically’ justified ways. Conflicts in the field of biomedicine have increasingly become framed in terms of ethics, and policy makers have to explain and defend their decisions with reference to ethics. The language of ethics has become the major medium for the debate about biomedical issues. This development is accompanied by the emergence of a new cast of professionals: the ‘ethics expert’, who becomes a member of a commission or an advisor to governments or organisations. Bioscientific practice and development seem to be inevitably ethical issues. Consequentially, controversies or conflicts appear to be solved best through ethical deliberations. One can justly speak of an ethics regime 1 that surrounds, stimulates and penetrates discourses, institutions and practices concerning conflicts and policy making in the issue area of biomedicine.


Luise Herrmann, S. and Könninger, S. (2007), "“… But you Cannot Influence the Direction of your Thinking”: Guiding Self-Government in Bioethics Policy Discourse", Katz Rothman, B., Mitchell Armstrong, E. and Tiger, R. (Ed.) Bioethical Issues, Sociological Perspectives (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 205-223. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1057-6290(07)09008-0

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