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Bioethics: An Introduction


By: Marianne Talbot(Author)

464 pages, 54 b/w photos and illustrations, 1 table

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | May 2012 | #194617 | ISBN-13: 9780521714594
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NHBS Price: £37.99 $50/€43 approx
Hardback | May 2012 | #194618 | ISBN-13: 9780521888332
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About this book

An understanding of the ethical implications of their work is now essential for all scientists. This accessible textbook clearly explains bioethical theories and their philosophical foundations to science students, enabling them to confidently take part in the key ethical debates of biotechnology. Over 200 activities introduce topics for personal reflection and discussion points encourage students to think for themselves and build their own arguments. Highlighting the potential pitfalls for those new to bioethics, each chapter features boxes providing factual information and outlining the philosophical background. Accompanying online podcasts by the author (two of whose podcasts on iTunesU have attracted over 3 million downloads) explain points that might be difficult for beginners. Detailed case studies provide an insight into real-life examples of bioethical problems. Within-chapter essay questions and quizzes, along with end-of-chapter review questions, allow students to check their understanding and encourage broader thinking about the topics discussed.

"This book is an excellent, unique and comprehensive resource for either an undergraduate or a graduate course. With its wonderful introduction into ethical theory and a multifaceted approach, it is an incomparable resource for the successful teaching of bioethics. The author's eloquent writing [...] carefully examines practically every aspect of [this] exciting interdisciplinary [field] [...] a valuable reading of interest for both students and scholar[s], alike."
– Mirjana Brockett, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

"I do not know of a better introduction and I suspect that it may become the standard text for years to come. It aims to give a sound introduction to people who have had little or no experience of ethics or philosophy, and it does so in a lively, rich and very readable way. Most important of all, it tries to engender a genuinely philosophical approach: fair-minded, rational and critical [...] a freshness and clarity that will stimulate thinking and discussion even amongst the most jaded students [...] I feel confident that nurses with the skills of reasoning and the fairness of mind that Bioethics: An Introduction is designed to provide will bring credit to themselves, to their patients and to the health services within which they work."
– Nursing Philosophy

"[...] admirably accessible and organised [...] this book not only makes learning about profound topics easier and more interesting, but it provides lessons for instructors to become more effective teachers."
The Quarterly Review of Biology


Using this book
Notes for instructors

Part I. Bioethics and Ethics

1. Biotechnology and bioethics: what it's all about
2. Ethics in general: ethics, action and freedom
3. Ethics in the context of society: ethics, society and the law
4. Ethical theories: virtue, duty and happiness
5. Identifying and evaluating arguments: logic and morality
6. General arguments: unnatural, disgusting, risky, only opinion

Part II. The Beginning and End of Life

Section 1. Cloning
7. Therapeutic cloning: the moral status of embryos
8. Reproductive cloning: science and science fiction

Section 2. Reproduction
9. Reproductive freedom: rights, responsibilities and choice
10. The resources of reproduction: eggs, sperm and wombs for sale
11. Screening and embryo selection: eliminating disorders or people?

Section 3. Ageing and Death
12. Ageing and immortality: the search for longevity
13. Death and killing: the quality and value of life

Part III. In The Midst of Life

Section 4. Our Duties to Ourselves
14. Human enhancement: the more the better?
15. Bio-information: databases, privacy and the fight against crime
16. Security and defence: security sensitivity, publication and warfare

Section 5. Our Duties to Each Other
17. Food and energy security: GM food, biofuel and the media
18. Bio-ownership: who owns the stuff of life?
19. Human justice: the developed and developing worlds

Section 6. Our Duties to Nature
20. Non-human animals: consciousness, rationality and animal rights
21. The living and non-living environment: spaceship Earth


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Marianne Talbot has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education since 2001, where she is responsible for the university's lifelong learning in philosophy. Talbot pioneered Oxford's popular online short courses and has more recently specialised in teaching ethics to scientists. She teaches ethics for doctoral training centres in Oxford and in London and has trained the EPSCR itself in ethics.

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