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Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas in Bioethics

Few areas of public policy have been fraught with as much controversy as bioethics. Although some people dispute whether it is even a discipline, bioethics tackles some of the most complex and sensitive issues confronting modern society. From discussions on abortion to assisted dying, bioethicists are there.

Each novel development in biomedical technology seems to spark rancorous disputes. FUTURE BIOETHICS: OVERCOMING TABOOS, MYTHS, AND DOGMAS (Prometheus Books, $29.98) is an ambitious book that seeks to reframe the debates surrounding current controversies in bioethics. Not only does it explore laws and policies behind bioethics technologies, it also takes a deep look into the personal decisions and ideas of ordinary people.

"Lindsay's discussion of contemporary bioethical issues is distinguished by features that are sorely needed in serious books for the popular audience: clarity without condescension, and depth without obscurantism," says Barbara Forrest, coauthor with Paul R. Gross of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, "His arguments are informed by common sense, compassion, and respect for ordinary people who must make the life-altering decisions that have become routine not only in modern medical care but in virtually all aspects of life in the modern world."

Those averse to new technologies often express the concern that the new technology is "unnatural" or requires us to "play God." Slogans such as "Frankenfoods" and "sanctity of life" substitute for reasoned argument. For some reason, these phrases became so frequently used that they replaced most facts about the subject.

Bioethicist Ronald A. Lindsay seeks to expose and debunk these myths. As Nature points out, "He does so in a book that is readable rather than obscure, and accessible to the interested lay person as well as to scholars in the field. Reckoning that progress is unlikely unless we can identify some common moral ground, he postulates that argument based on agreed norms can break the deadlock created by over-hyped language and untested dogma. What is needed, he argues, is 'a well-reasoned, pragmatic approach to controversies in bioethics that avoids reliance on taboos, myths and dogma, whether these result from religious or ideological beliefs'. These are fighting words, and Lindsay throws a number of powerful punches."

After describing in detail the proper way to approach and resolve a dispute in bioethics, Lindsay proceeds to analyze several different cutting-edge issues. "By carefully examining and dissecting claims made by many policy makers and ethicists on topics such as assistance in dying, genetic engineering, and embryonic stem cell research, Lindsay shows that all too often these claims are based on instinctive reactions, beliefs that lack factual support, and religious or ideological dogma," notes Nature Through his insightful analysis, Lindsay demonstrates how to achieve pragmatic, progressive solutions to these controversies.

An antidote for misguided thinking, FUTURE BIOETHICS illuminates the way forward to bioethics policies appropriate for the twenty-first century.


Contact: Lynn Pasquale
Prometheus Books

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Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas in Bioethics
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