The two articles in discussion for today observe the burgeoning sociopolitical divide in bioethical discourse. In Ruth Macklin’s article ” The New Conservatives in Bioethics” we denote her disfavor in the new divisions and labels in American bioethics which she finds limiting, misleading, and distracting. Macklin describes “Conservative Bioethics” as one in which opposes all ” biotechnology and its use in all sorts of interventions they term “artificial”: artificial reproduction, artificial life extension, artificial intelligence, and artificial life, and, in general, making ourselves “artificially better.” (Macklin, 34-43) She first argues that traditionally the intersection of bioethics and public policy is frowned upon as it limits the original goal of critiques of new and existing medical dilemmas. This new labeling also, intentionally or unintentionally, confines all viewpoints in opposition to “conservative” as “liberal” which is harmful as the viewpoint are and always have been diverse in their positioning. Macklin further degrades the notions of “Conservative Bioethics” by claiming confusion in the definition. She reiterates that Robert Veatch who said, “we are trying to outgrow the simplistic ethical notion that if something has been artificially processed it is intrinsically evil.”(Macklin, 34-43) would be the standard view for the generation he lived in. While opposing views that sought herbalist foundations were seen as fringe. This is the antithesis to what modern conservative bioethics rhetoric states today. Lastly, and most importantly she surmises that the political climate has emboldened bioethicists with evangelical ideas to mimic the conservative persuasive style and rhetoric in an effort to gain support and cultural leverage. Macklin states that their style of argument lacks true logical deduction and leans on pathos.
Macklin raises great concerns. There is a notion that the field of bioethics is being degraded by some who are using not only politics but political rhetoric and grandstanding to gain an advantage in promoting their ideals. This is particularly true of pro-life and anti-IVF individuals. The use of emotionally manipulative arguments are not for the persuasion of other scholars, but for people whom are less knowledgeable on bioethical subjects. This is very much purposefully misleading and manipulative. However, Macklin’s tone throughout the article gives concern to her ability to discern the true issues. Although the “Conservative Bioethics” gimmick is in itself unethical it is a reaction to the poor ethics of politics as a whole and a testament to how politics and positions have more of an effect on ethics than ethics has an effect on politics. The intertwining of politics and bioethics is one that should be encouraged, however, one would hope bioethics would be the non-partisan, logic-based entity to advise and shape law. Unfortunately, that is unrealistic as many institutions in our society made to be judiciously unbiased have in actuality political engines. One can use the United States Supreme Court, for example, an entity made to be nonpartisan but is actually a political lever for social reform and persuasion. Macklin has to accept the fact that bioethics is corrupted and some of her colleagues are, for lack of a better term, playing dirty. However, this should be expected in a society where it is rewarded. Macklin’s viewpoint can also be subjected to pathos arguments to help persuade lawmakers and citizens but she would have to admit she’s part of the problem and is unethical herself, or she can continue to make logical arguments rooted in dated bioethics ideals and risk citizens losing rights she feels are ethically sound. Her inability to not change arguments could also eventually be unethical.
The second article by Katherine Braun discusses the bioethic divide in Germany. Braun emphasizes that German discourse is centered on risk aversion or lack thereof. In Germany, the Bioethical divide is centered on techno-optimistic camp and a techno-skeptical ideal. Techno-Optimists “emphasize technology’s potential benefits, welcome the enhancement of choice, and believe that society is able, in principle, to calculate and to control potential risks” (Braun 42-49); while Techno-skeptical “underscore the limits of technological solutions and the price that individuals and society might have to pay for them.” (Braun 42-49). These views are a cultural and religious intertwining with German society. Germany’s Nazi history of eugenics as well as common Christian ideals shape the basis of Techno-skeptical views and the dangers of not just technology but increased autonomy. Techo-optimists, similarly to American mainstream bioethics, is centered around choice. Braun emphasizes the positives of the German bioethical system as it is not partisan and makes sure to “ balance risks and benefits and examine and correct the existing discourse.” (Braun 42-49).
German society may be seemingly less partisan than American society concerning bioethics. However, Braun does not address the negatives of German discourse as it juxtaposes the risk aversion and forces standardization of what is a benefit that many would agree cannot be done. Unlike American bioethics, German bioethics ignores differences in perceptions of what is beneficial and replaces it with discourse concerning the process of coming to a decision and not the decision itself. There is a danger in assuming the process of coming to a decision will always lead to the right decision. In my opinion, the issues in the binary system in both German and American Bioethics, will always eventually lead to political juxtaposition. The true crux of the issue is, does the basis of political structure support ethical degradation to win an ideological argument? Will Germany eventually look like America?