Manipulating Fate: Medical Innovations, Ethical Implications, Theatrical Illuminations
Karen H. Rothenberg
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Lynn Wein Bush
Columbia University Medical Center, Center for Bioethics
Houston Journal of Health Law and Policy, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2012
U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-70
Transformative innovations in medicine and their ethical complexities create frequent confusion and misinterpretation that color the imagination. Placed in historical context, theatre provides a framework to reflect upon how the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies evolve over time and how attempts to control fate through medical science have shaped -- and been shaped by -- personal and professional relationships. The drama of these human interactions is powerful and has the potential to generate fear, create hope, transform identity, and inspire empathy -- a vivid source to observe the complex implications of translating research into clinical practice through the lens of other individuals.
As the scientific landscape shifts at an ever increasing pace, it becomes even more essential to search for creative approaches to better understand the issues and to place them in historical and societal context. This article is structured in the format of a play with six Acts representing the evolution of societal issues raised by attempts to manipulate fate by advances in medical science. Excerpts from forty-six plays are integrated chronologically to reflect the ethical and legal context of their era -- and the analysis of the themes that reoccur over the centuries. Even though the power of technology continues to increase dramatically, raising more ethical implications, the urge to use medical innovations to manipulate our fate and those of others remains constant.
This article is part of a broader bioethical and legal research project to stimulate interdisciplinary discourse on the implications of emerging medical technologies and to enhance the health policy process.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 78
Keywords: genomics, bioethics, medical humanities, medical education, science & technology, ELSI, health law & policy, genetics, AIDS, infectious disease, psychology, psychiatry, neurology, history of medicine, history of science, medical technology, plays, vignettes, theatreAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 29, 2012 ; Last revised: February 20, 2013
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