Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

WORKSHOP (60 minutes): What are the responsibilities of the bioethicist in an age of political cruelty? (1055)

Deborah Zion 1 , Angus Dawson 2 , Christopher Jordens 2 , Kathryn Mackay 2 , Angela Ballantyne 3
  1. Victoria University, Footscray, VICTORIA, Australia
  2. Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney, Sydney, Victoria, Australia
  3. Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice (Wellington) Bioethics Centre (Dunedin), University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

In an age of increasing human rights abuse, should bioethics be a discipline in which political neutrality is either possible or desirable? Here, we discuss the way in which bioethical work cannot be characterised as neutral. We begin with the proposition that even the choice of topics is a political decision, through which bioethicists allocate intellectual resources. On this basis we believe that within the field issues of political and social importance that have an impact on global populations should be prioritized, and that bioethicists should investigate and contribute to public policy and debate. Bioethics should be a normative discipline that  seeks to make a difference, as well as being academically rigorous.

Our focus today concerns our professional duties to expose human rights violations and advocate for those who are subjected to deliberate cruelty, through discussion of three case studies where bioethicists have sought to bring to light violations of the right to health and acts of injustice, and what obligations might flow from this knowledge. We focus on the situation of asylum seekers in offshore detention, organ harvesting in China, and  recent examples of obesity campaigns.

Deborah Zion: On Beginning with Justice: Bioethics, Advocacy and the Rights of Asylum Seekers.

Angus Dawson: Good Bioethics, Academic Quality and Indifference to Making a Difference

Christopher Jordens: Cruelty as Political Theatre: Australia’s system of Mandatory Immigration Detention

Angela Ballantyne: Indirect levers: reflections on how to achieve change

Kathryn MacKay:‘Click with Compassion’: Public Health Communication in a Cruel Age