Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Against Bioethics


'Against Bioethics' by Jonathan Baron is a book worth buying - probably a strange verdict, coming from one of the editors of Bioethics, you might think. The truth though, is that Baron is not actually against bioethics. His book provides an excellent exposition of how a utilitarian would approach particular issues in bioethics. Among the issues he covers are drug R&D, research allocation issues and similar topics of current concern. Baron is quite critical of deontological or principle based thinking that is fairly common in the field.
Peter Singer, on the book cover, 'Ignore the title. Baron doesn't want to get rid of bioethics, but to show us how we can do it better. His acute diagnosis of the pervasive errors of deontological approaches to bioethics deserves a wide readership.'
Nuff said, buy and read this book. While you read chapter 8, have in mind that there are good consequentialist arguments against placebo controls even in countries where people have no alternative acess to life extending drugs. This is the only part of the book that I found disappointing. Disappointing not because I disagree with Baron - I do, very strongly so - disappointing because he chose to ignore widely available (ie PubMed listed articles) consquentialist arguments in favour of criticising not so sophisticated deontological arguments put forward by the that time Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell.
Another great book in the MIT Press's series 'Basic Bioethics'. The field ought to be grateful to Glenn McGee and Art Caplan for continuing to choose challenging topics for inclusion in their series.

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