Bioethics Blogs

The Private as Public: What it Means for Bioethics

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Today I was sitting in an outdoor coffee house and listened to the sounds around me. I heard the jackhammer from the street construction and the beep of a truck backing up. There was the gentleman working on his computer at the next table, playing music from his cell phone, out loud for everyone to hear. There were two women behind me (one actually moved so that she was next to me) speaking in very loud voices while one was convincing the other to use her as a web designer (and complaining about their boyfriends). There was a group of people who had brought in food from elsewhere to sit in this outdoor space and not purchasing any items from the business where they sat: They ate, placed their feet on the furniture and smoked. Another able-bodied young man sat in a seat specifically set aside for seniors and those with a disability while a pregnant woman was standing nearby, not finding a seat.

At that moment I realized that I had become an old curmudgeon because flashing through my head was this question: When had it become acceptable to act in public like you would at home? There used to be private behaviors that one would never do in public. I was taught that in public one should be polite and unobtrusive. As a bioethicist and a former journalist, I have also taken privacy as a very serious matter and yet all around me, people were behaving in a public, outdoor space, as if they were sitting at home alone.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.