Maria Merritt


This Article addresses the present state and future prospects of the field of bioethics. The subject is open to more than one attitude of address. Possibilities include preoccupation with the professional status of bioethics, critical scrutiny of its research programs and methodologies, and anxiety about whether some areas of bioethics have become intertwined with-and perhaps co-opted byextra- professional, extra-academic agendas, such as those that drive profitmaking enterprises (pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, HMOs) or partisan politics (debates over abortion, stem cell research, withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from patients like Terri Schiavo). These attitudes, whatever their merits, are all somewhat self-focused. Without denying the importance of the problems they target or the necessity of continual self-critical reflection among the practitioners and friends of bioethics, this Article assumes a more straightforward, outward-looking stance.

This stance is meant to complement the inward-looking attitudes and to affirm the values that motivate them. Those of us who work in bioethics can demonstrate the professional and academic value of our field only through the substance of the contributions we make in its name. With respect to worries about inappropriate involvement with corporate or partisan agendas, the issue is protecting the intellectual integrity we need in order to make headway on problems whose solutions cannot be left to the rough-and-tumble of the market and the political arena. We ought to set our own research agenda, rather than acquiesce in its distortion by external interests, political pressures, and popular sensations du jour.