Bioethics in America: Origins and Cultural Politics

In Bioethics in America, Tina Stevens challenges the view that the origins of the bioethics movement can be found in the 1960s, a decade mounting challenges to all variety of authority. Instead, Stevens sees bioethics as one more product of a centuries-long cultural legacy of American ambivalence toward progress, and she finds its modern roots in the responsible science movement that emerged following detonation of the atomic bomb. Rather than challenging authority, she says, the bioethics movement was an aid to authority, in that it allowed medical doctors and researchers to proceed on course while bioethicists managed public fears about medicine's new technologies. That is, the public was reassured by bioethical oversight of biomedicine; in reality, however, bioethicists belonged to the same mainstream that produced the doctors and researchers whom the bioethicists were guiding.