Before Bioethics: A History of American Medical Ethics from the Colonial Period to the Bioethics Revolution

ISBN : 9780199774111

Robert Baker
496 Pages
163 x 244 mm
Pub date
Sep 2013
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Before Bioethics narrates the history of American medical ethics from its colonial origins to current bioethical controversies over abortion, AIDS, animal rights, and physician-assisted suicide. The first history of American medical ethics published in more than a half century, Before Bioethics tracks the evolution of American medical ethics from colonial midwives and physicians' oaths, to medical society codes and bioethical principles. Applying the concept of "morally disruptive technologies," it analyzes the impact of the stethoscope on conceptions of fetal life and the criminalization of abortion, and the impact of the ventilator on our conception of death and the treatment of the dying. The narrative offers tales of those whose lives were affected by the medical ethics of their era: unwed mothers executed by puritans because midwives found them with stillborn babies; the unlikely trio-an Irishman, a Sephardic Jew and in-the-closet gay public health reformer-who drafted the American Medical Association's code of ethics but received no credit for their achievement, and the founder of American gynecology celebrated during his own era but condemned today because he perfected his surgical procedures on un-anesthetized African American slave women. The book concludes by exploring the reasons underlying American society's empowerment of a hodgepodge of ex-theologians, humanist clinicians and researchers, lawyers and philosophers-the bioethicists-as authorities able to address research ethics scandals and the ethical problems generated by morally disruptive technologies.


Chapter 1: Introduction: On Medical Ethics and Morality
Chapter 2: Midwives' Oaths of Fidelity and Diligence
Chapter 3: A Medical Ethics of Fidelity, Chastity and Gentlemanly Honor
Chapter 4: The Lecturers: Samuel Bard and Benjamin Rush
Chapter 5: Codes of Medical Police and Ethics, 1806-1846
Chapter 6: A National Code of Medical Ethics, 1847
Chapter 7: Professional Medical Ethics 1848-1875: Abortion, Inquisition and Exclusion
Chapter 8: The Anti-Code Revolt: Laissez Medical Faire Ethics, 1876-1979
Chapter 9: Medical Ethics and the Research Imperative: 1800-1946
Chapter 10: Explaining The Birth of Bioethics, 1947-1999

About the author: 

Robert Baker is William D. Williams Professor of Philosophy at Union College and Director of the Union Graduate College-Mount Sinai School of Medicine Bioethics Program. A four-time National Endowment for the Humanities awardee, Baker is founding chair of the Affinity Group on the History of Medical Ethics of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. He has authored, co-authored, edited or co-edited numerous scholarly articles, reports and books, including the American Medical Ethics Revolution and The Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics. Both books were awarded a citation by Choice, the journal of academic libraries, as an outstanding book in the health sciences for their respective years. Baker also co-authored a 2008 report on African American physicians and organized medicine that prompted the board of the AMA to apologize publicly for its past treatment of African American physicians.

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