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The Foundations of Bioethics

Kenneth L. Vaux, PhD
JAMA. 1986;256(1):107. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380010113043.
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In a volume that will prove to be a watershed in the modern literature of bioethics, Tristram Engelhardt, perhaps the preeminent philosopher of medicine working today, argues for a public biomedical ethic that would be characterized by toleration, peace, liberty of expression, and absence of coercion of any sort. He presents his thesis with erudition and passion:

... one might ask under what circumstances there could ever be a peaceable union of peoples of the earth, save through acquiescing in the policy that persons may do with themselves and consenting others whatever they wish, despite what others might think and feel in the matter.

The former Rosemary Kennedy Professor at Georgetown, Washington, DC, and now Professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, proceeds to elucidate this philosophical theory and operational ethic as it bears on such questions as abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. It is a bold and provocative book,


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