Every two years, I write a little post-mortem of the IAB conference, mentioning particular high and low points. But since I’ve heard near-blanket praise for this year’s Edinburgh fandango, there won’t be too many of the latter. And everyone with whom I’ve been in contact since has been highly impressed; we’re all still on a bit of a high.
So what was particularly good? Well, in general, I thought that the standard of argument in most of the papers was high: it’s nice to see really big ideas being grappled with. Matthias Risse’s paper on IP, particularly in the context of making drugs available to the least well-off, was the keynote on Thursday morning, and was notable in this regard. Risse was arguing that the current IP regime owes too much to Locke, and not enough to Grotius. In other words, he made no bones about an appeal to 17th-century political philosophy. A simple and undemanding rehearsal of principlism this was not. I’d perhaps have liked to hear more about rights to the medicines in question, as a complement to the point about IP rights – after all, unless there’s a right to the medicines, many of the arguments about IP may be moot; but I’m sure that is, or at least could be, done elsewhere.
Similarly, Gillian Brock’s paper about the medical brain-drain left a few questions unanswered – the proposal that there be some kind of mandatory service for professionals from low-to-middle-income countries arguably places a burden on some people for the misfortune of not having been born in a wealthy part of the world, and leaves open questions about what the point of eduction is to begin with (national needs or personal flourishing?)
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.