The Origins of Bioethics

The Origins of Bioethics

Remembering When Medicine Went Wrong

Rhetoric & Public Affairs

by John A. Lynch

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Imprint: Michigan State University Press

246 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in, 9

  • ISBN: 9781611863413
  • Published: September 2019



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The Origins of Bioethics argues that what we remember from the history of medicine and how we remember it are consequential for the identities of doctors, researchers, and patients in the present day. Remembering when medicine went wrong calls people to account for the injustices inflicted on vulnerable communities across the twentieth century in the name of medicine, but the very groups empowered to create memorials to these events often have a vested interest in minimizing their culpability for them. Sometimes these groups bury this past and forget events when medical research harmed those it was supposed to help. The call to bioethical memory then conflicts with a desire for “minimal remembrance” on the part of institutions and governments. The Origins of Bioethics charts this tension between bioethical memory and minimal remembrance across three cases—the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the Willowbrook Hepatitis Study, and the Cincinnati Whole Body Radiation Study—that highlight the shift from robust bioethical memory to minimal remembrance to forgetting.