by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
One of the most contentious of all issues in bioethics has been whether as a profession, we should take a stand against issues. Arguments have raged on both sides of the issue. The American Society for Bioethics & Humanities (ASBH) only takes stands on issues of academic freedom. The thinking, as I’ve seen it, is that bioethics has something to offer all political perspectives and by not taking stands on issues, we are more likely to help further conversations among people on all parts of the political spectrum.
This stance has been tested: When as a nation we learned that torture was regularly being practice by our military some took offense, but only Steven Miles spoke out and resigned from the organization for not taking a stand. Bioethics in general has been criticized for its lack of participation in social justice issues. In Observing Bioethics, Renee Fox and Judith Swazey criticize the bioethical enterprise for this unwillingness to take a stand.
So are there extraordinary times and issues when we as a group should stand up either individually or en masse?
I have been personally struggling with how to respond to the mass upheaval currently taking place in the United States. Plans to re-open Guantanamo Bay, CIA black sites, and torture are violations of human rights and human decency. For example, banning refugees from our shores, keeping people from returning to their jobs/homes/families; even forcing residents at US hospitals to leave the country after returning from trips abroad. Also consider efforts to silence government scientists, health care providers in other countries receiving US aid, and the diplomatic corp.