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Global Bioethics: Building on the Leopold Legacy

Van Rensselaer Potter
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 203
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.14321/j.ctt7ztc2s
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  • Book Info
    Global Bioethics
    Book Description:

    Van Rensselaer Potter created and defined the term "bioethics" in 1970, to describe a new philosophy that sought to integrate biology, ecology, medicine, and human values. Bioethics is often linked to environmental ethics and stands in sharp contrast to biomedical ethics. Because of this confusion (and appropriation of the term in medicine), Potter chose to use the term "Global Bioethics" in 1988. Potter's definition of bioethics fromGlobal Bioethicsis, "Biology combined with diverse humanistic knowledge forging a science that sets a system of medical and environmental priorities for acceptable survival."

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-288-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-xii)
    H. TRISTRAM ENGELHARDT JR.

    Ideas have a life and power of their own. An idea can shape or reshape the ways in which we understand and experience reality. Encountering a fruitful idea, we say,

    Ah-ha! and see the world anew and cannot imagine it otherwise. The ideas that shape our vision of ourselves and our reality structure the very taken-for-granted character of everyday life. The same at times happens with new words. A new word often allows us to name elements of reality in a way that conveys new control over our cultural environment. It is often not the precision of a word that...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1971 a basic tenet of bioethics was that ethical values cannot be separated from biological facts.¹ At about the same time that my bookBioethics, Bridge to the Futureappeared, bioethics as an outgrowth of medical ethics was being developed at Georgetown University and at the Hastings Institute. For many it came to mean exclusively the ethics of how far to exercise the medical options that are technically possible, such as organ transplants, the use of artificial organs, abortion, sterilization, artificial contraception, chemotherapy, informed consent by the patient, freedom of choice in procreation or abortion, fertilizationin vitro,surrogate...

  6. 1 THE LEOPOLD LEGACY
    (pp. 13-30)

    When aldo leopold wrote “The Land Ethic,” published in 1948 but developed over a number of years, he expressed a concern which is still applicable today: “Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land.”¹ By land, he meant “not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals” (216). This book is, in part, an attempt to reaffirm and promote precepts and values such as these which...

  7. 2 HUMAN SURVIVAL
    (pp. 31-56)

    On december 28, 1954, the American Association for the Advancement of Science held a symposium on “Population Problems,” at which Dr. Alan Gregg, vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation (1951–56), came up with a startling idea: the thought that the human species is to the planet Earth what a cancer is to an individual human being. As a cancer specialist I was aware of the many contributing lines of thought and so was not altogether surprised to note the same idea proposed by another eminent biologist, Professor Norman J. Berrill of McGill University, in his superb bookMan’s Emerging Mind.¹...

  8. 3 DILEMMAS IN ECOLOGICAL BIOETHICS
    (pp. 57-70)

    When aldo leopold completed his textbook onGame Managementand began the work that would culminate in possibly his greatest contribution, he drew on his extensive background to produce two axioms that deserve our attention today. First, he established a baseline for all future discussions: “An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.” Second, he justified his entire arguement for a land ethic on the following basis: “An [ecological] ethic may be regarded as a mode of guidance for meeting ecological situations so new or intricate, or involving such deferred reactions, that the...

  9. 4 TWO KINDS OF BIOETHICS
    (pp. 71-94)

    It seems worthwhile at this point to note the historical development and ongoing evolution of the global bioethics concept. Aldo Leopold laid the framework for an ecological and population-oriented bioethics of survival in 1949 in his seminal essay “The Land Ethic” as well as in earlier essays. Continuing Leopold’s line of thought, in 1970 I coined the term “bioethics” to describe the amalgamation of ethical values and biological facts, and in 1971 publishedBioethics, Bridge to the Future.This concept of bioethics was formalized in a figure published in 1975, here reproduced as figure 1.

    However, an independent movement had...

  10. 5 DILEMMAS IN MEDICAL BIOETHICS
    (pp. 95-128)

    Earlier I proposed that medical bioethicists and medical practitioners are primarily concerned with the short-term view of saving individual lives, with patient autonomy, and with “rights to life.” This was seen as frequently in conflict with what I conceived as the ecological bioethic, which pursues the long-term view of acceptable survival for the human species in a healthful biosphere as its goal. In the present chapter I will mention some of the problems that confront medical bioethics and society when life takes precedence over health. The issue is whether “sanctity of life” takes priority over “meaningful life.” Ecological bioethics can...

  11. 6 THE CONTROL OF HUMAN FERTILITY
    (pp. 129-150)

    Aldo leopold was apprehensive about a future involving further increases in population in the Western Hemisphere, basing his views on the concept of “carrying capacity” of the land, that is, the soil, water, air, plants, and animals available to the human species. I am sure that were he living today, he would be aware of the precarious future for people in Africa, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia.

    Today, specialists in a variety of technologies are inclined to believe that if they could be given adequate financial support, there is an almost unlimited extent to which they could expand...

  12. 7 GLOBAL BIOETHICS DEFINED
    (pp. 151-184)

    It is so easy to applaud the dramatic, thousand-mile flight of an anencephalic infant through the rebuilding of its heart into a defective newborn by a skilled surgeon. It is easy to comprehend the one-on-one relationship between a desperately ill patient and a wise physician, the medical bioethic that sees no second choice, that can always choose life as the supreme value above all other values. Not so easy is the problem, How do we prevent famine in Africa? How do we save the Amazonian rain forest? How does South Africa change its present policies and go on to limit...

  13. Appendix 1 THE LEOPOLD HERITAGE
    (pp. 185-192)
  14. Appendix 2 A BIOETHICAL CREED FOR INDIVIDUALS
    (pp. 193-196)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 197-203)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-204)