The muse struck me late Friday night and I scripted a little satirical cartoon (reposted above) about a fictional conversation between a mainstream bioethicist and a Hippocratic Oath believing doctor. I have mostly had an enthusiastic response. However, a few have accused me of painting with too broad a brush. Not all bioethicists believe in infanticide, I have been told—and that is certainly true. Others have noted that contrary to my creation, some bioethicists reject personhood theory and the concept of “speciesism.”
Indeed. Leon Kass, for example, advocates for human dignity. But that is precisely why he was subjected to so much vituperation and calumny from within bioethics after being appointed to the President’s Council, as I wrote about at the time. Moreover, bioethicists who disagree with my fictional creation’s moral views, generally are marginalized in the media and among their peers by having a modifier applied to their views to distinguish them from just plain “bioethicists,” e.g. “conservative bioethicist,” or “Catholic bioethicist,” etc. It’s like how “Christian rock and roll” is never simply rock and roll—no matter how talented the musicians.
Finally, while the sarcasm in the piece is mine, almost everything substantive that the bioethicist says to the doctor are verbatim or near direct quotes from some of the field’s most notable advocates. Peter Singer is named, but there are others whose views are also presented, e.g., John Harris; Tom Beauchamp, R.G. Frey, and Sherwin Nuland, as well as notable proponents of assisted suicide.
So, do bioethicists really think like the one in my cartoon? Alas. To a substantial degree, they do.