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In Search of the Good

In Search of the Good: A Life in Bioethics

Daniel Callahan
Series: Basic Bioethics
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    In Search of the Good
    Book Description:

    Daniel Callahan helped invent the field of bioethics more than forty years ago when he decided to use his training in philosophy to grapple with ethical problems in biology and medicine. Disenchanted with academic philosophy because of its analytical bent and distance from the concerns of real life, Callahan found the ethical issues raised by the rapid medical advances of the 1960s--which included the birth control pill, heart transplants, and new capacities to keep very sick people alive--to be philosophical questions with immediate real-world relevance. In this memoir, Callahan describes his part in the founding of bioethics and traces his thinking on critical issues including embryonic stem cell research, market-driven health care, and medical rationing. He identifies the major challenges facing bioethics today and ruminates on its future. Callahan writes about founding the Hastings Center--the first bioethics research institution--with the author and psychiatrist Willard Gaylin in 1969, and recounts the challenges of running a think tank while keeping up a prolific flow of influential books and articles. Editor of the famous liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal in the 1960s, Callahan describes his now-secular approach to issues of illness and mortality. He questions the idea of endless medical "progress" and interventionist end-of-life care that seems to blur the boundary between living and dying. It is the role of bioethics, he argues, to be a loyal dissenter in the onward march of medical progress. The most important challenge for bioethics now is to help rethink the very goals of medicine.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30597-6
    Subjects: History, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Arthur Caplan

    Glenn McGee and I developed the Basic Bioethics series and collaborated as series coeditors from 1998 to 2008. In Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 the series was reconstituted, with a new Editorial Board, under my sole editorship. I am pleased to present the thirty-fifth book in the series.

    The Basic Bioethics series makes innovative works in bioethics available to a broad audience and introduces seminal scholarly manuscripts, state-of-the-art reference works, and textbooks. Topics engaged include the philosophy of medicine, advancing genetics and biotechnology, end-of-life care, health and social policy, and the empirical study of biomedical life. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged....

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. 1 Laying the Foundations: 1930–1961
    (pp. 1-24)

    To have a career reflecting on ethics requires three skills: to know oneself, to understand the culture in which one’s life and one’s profession are embedded, and to have a working knowledge of the history and methods of the field. In the vein of knowing oneself, I must then know where I came from. That contention has a particular importance in my case. Although I left the Catholic Church and religion in my mid-thirties, many friends and critics believe they can spot their remnants in me just below the surface. If true, I am hardly embarrassed by it. If anything...

  7. 2 My Own 1960s: A Decade of Transformation
    (pp. 25-48)

    In 1961 I left Harvard to take a job as an editor ofCommonweal.Founded in 1924, the magazine occupies a unique niche in the American Catholic Church, known for its liberalism, its independence of the clergy, and as a voice of Catholic intellectuals. My writing had attracted the attention of the editors, and I was eager to accept their job offer, which I think I solicited. I arrived in New York with my Harvard dissertation still unfinished, saw my role as an editor only as a temporary stop on the way to teaching philosophy, and brought with me a...

  8. 3 Giving Birth to a Center: 1969–1979
    (pp. 49-76)

    I began thinking about a research center on ethics in 1967. At first the idea was to have a general focus on ethical issues of all kinds, but that came to seem too broad. As time went on, my work on abortion and at the Population Council, as well as a number of conferences in the 1960s—many organized by scientists on the likely impact the genetic developments and the new technologies that were changing medicine, often called the “new biology”—led me to narrow my focus to ethics and the life sciences. Many of those conferences concluded by saying...

  9. 4 Coping with Success: 1980–1986
    (pp. 77-102)

    By the end of the 1970s, the Hastings Center had become well established, as had the field of bioethics. After a few years, we moved from our original office on Warburton Avenue to a building on the Burke estate owned by the Hastings-on-Hudson school district. That estate had been owned in the 1920s and 1930s by Broadway impresario Flo Ziegfeld and his wife Billy Burke, an actress famous for her role as Glinda, the good witch inThe Wizard of Oz.I felt sure she would have approved of our work, though sometimes we felt most like the wizard, pulling...

  10. 5 The Routinization of Charisma: 1986–1996
    (pp. 103-124)

    The “routinization of charisma ” is a wonkish phrase, not to be used in polite company. But there is no better way to describe a classic problem with startup companies or think tanks. They begin with a great splash and move with a fast, exciting pace. Then the excitement wears off, the entrepreneurial leaders get short of breath and fresh ideas, and an orderly long-term routine must be put in place.

    After charisma, then what? By the mid-1980s, that was our situation. We were well established, solid enough to run an endowment campaign, and working at a fast and often...

  11. 6 Opening the Floodgates: 1996–2010
    (pp. 125-144)

    When I stepped down from the Hastings Center in 1996, I had no clear agenda or any particular ambitions. I knew I would write, always had and always will, but I had no immediate topics in mind. I was given a six-month sabbatical by the Center and, through the good offices of Sissela Bok, spent that time at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies on Bow Street, just off Harvard Square. That was a most congenial appointment, taking me back to my 1969 work on population policy and reawakening the memories of my graduate days at Harvard, mainly...

  12. 7 The Future of Bioethics
    (pp. 145-172)

    Over the years I have been asked countless times about the future of bioethics. I have rarely had a good answer. That uncharacteristic loss of words was because I was thinking only of uncertain trends and projections; my crystal ball is small and cloudy. Yet there is another way to look at the future: trying to determine what it ought to be. That just takes some imagination and, if combined with some plausible predictions, might bear fruit. I will try to do just that. To do so, I will have to assess how well the field itself has done. Where...

  13. 8 Unraveling the Puzzle of Ethics
    (pp. 173-188)

    In the summer of 2009, I was attending a conference in Paris; during some free time, I took a walk along the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay. I began feeling lightheaded—so much so I had to sit down—and, once walking again, stayed near walls to lean against. I thought about getting an ambulance—well aware that the French health care system is one of the best in the world—but with classical male denial, decided to tough it out. I made the trip home, had more symptoms, finally fainted, and was rushed to a hospital diagnosed with ventricular...

  14. 9 Reaching the Finish Line
    (pp. 189-198)

    Until not long ago, I believed that I had been born during one of the best eras of America history and that the timing of my birth was a bit of added benefit. Now I am not so sure. I came into the world just as the Great Depression was beginning to, but into a family that was not affected by it. I was too young to be drafted during WWII and too old for the Vietnam War. I was the right age for the Korean War but did my service under one of the oddest, least life-threatening, circumstances: living...

  15. Index
    (pp. 199-206)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)
  17. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)