Bioethics and the Humanities: Attitudes and Perceptions, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Bioethics and the Humanities

Attitudes and Perceptions, 1st Edition

By Robin Downie, Jane Macnaughton


208 pages

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Critiquing many areas of medical practice and research whilst making constructive suggestions about medical education, this book extends the scope of medical ethics beyond sole concern with regulation.

Illustrating some humanistic ways of understanding patients, this volume explores the connections between medical ethics, healthcare and subjects, such as philosophy, literature, creative writing and medical history and how they can affect the attitudes of doctors towards patients and the perceptions of medicine, health and disease which have become part of contemporary culture.

The authors examine a range of ideas in medical practice and research, including:

  • the idea that patient status or the doctor/patient relationship can be understood via quantitative scales
  • the illusion fostered by medical ethics that doctors, unlike those in other professions, are uniquely beneficent and indeed altruistic.

An excellent text for undergraduate and postgraduate students of law, medical ethics and medical healthcare law, Bioethics and the Humanities shows the real ethical achievements, problems and half-truths of contemporary medicine.


"This book has many strengths. It is iconoclastic, critical, clear and well written throughout…

A valuable signpost on a journey that effectively has only just begun… graduate students and experienced healthcare workers in many disciplines and practices will find in it a valuable articulation of some of the main issues and challenges that present themselves… for some, it may be life- and practice-transforming. [Downie and Macnaughton] show themselves to be congenial, fascinating and demanding exemplars and guides for those who chose to put their feet on the medical humanities path." - Medical Humanities, vol. 33 no.2 (December 2007)

"The book is well written, lively, and readable and serves to stimulate a desire in the reader to discuss, debate and further explore the issues raised. I would recommend it to anyone involved in the fields of bioethics and medical education, but most especially to doctors themselves (and aspiring ones) who will find much food for thought here no matter what stage in their career." - Joe Bouch, Association for Medical Humanities Newsletter, Spring 2008

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Bioethics and the Humanities 1. Bioethics and the Medical Humanities Part 2: Medical Humanities: The Critical Function of Philosophy 2. Moral Philosophy and Bioethics 3. Logic and Epistemology 4. Political Philosophy and Bioethics 5. Medical Half Truths Part 3: Medical Humanities: The Supplementary Function of Literature and the Arts 6. Literature and the Ethical Perspective 7. Arts in Health 8. Teaching and Research Part 4: General Conclusions 9. A Humanistic Broadening of Bioethics

About the Authors

R.S. Downie is Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University and Professorial Research Fellow. He has specialised in applying philosophical techniques to practical problems. In particular, he is interested in biomedical ethics and in the use of literature and the arts as vehicles for developing medical perceptions and attitudes.

About the Series

Biomedical Law and Ethics Library

Scientific and clinical advances, social and political developments and the impact of healthcare on our lives raise profound ethical and legal questions. Medical law and ethics have become central to our understanding of these problems, and are important tools for the analysis and resolution of problems – real or imagined.

In this series, scholars at the forefront of biomedical law and ethics will contribute to the debates in this area, with accessible, thought-provoking, and sometimes controversial ideas. Each book in the series will develop an independent hypothesis and argue cogently for a particular position. One of the major contributions of this series is the extent to which both law and ethics are utilised in the content of the books, and the shape of the series itself.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General