Why America Needs Bioethics Right Now

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

From the title, you probably assumed I’m going to talk about the fast changing pace of medical technology, whether we should be working on human embryos, claims that scientists will be able to do head transplants within 2 years, or even whether the Olympics should be postponed because of Zika. This blog has also paid attention to some of the orphan issues of bioethics: public health, social justice, health disparities, climate change and medicine in war, torture and guns. My interest today, though, is not on the content of bioethics, but rather on its methods of discourse.

This past week has been a challenging one on my campus. A conservative speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, was invited to campus by the College Republicans. Though his ideas are not mainstream, and much of what he says is not supported by fact, he was an invited speaker. Students who disagreed with the speakers’ politics and his views protested, as is their right. But they also entered the hall where he spoke and shut down the event. (You can read more at Washington Post blog, Huffington Post blog, and campus newspaper).

Whether one believes that the speaker should not have been invited to a liberal arts university, or whether the protest against his politics and views was justified, or whether free speech was limited, the online response has been toxic and decidedly uncivil. One of the student protesters tweeted that she learned about activism and standing up from one of her political science professors.

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.