1st Edition

Phenomenological Bioethics Medical Technologies, Human Suffering, and the Meaning of Being Alive

By Fredrik Svenaeus Copyright 2018
    176 Pages
    by Routledge

    176 Pages
    by Routledge

    Emerging medical technologies are changing our views on human nature and what it means to be alive, healthy, and leading a good life. Reproductive technologies, genetic diagnosis, organ transplantation, and psychopharmacological drugs all raise existential questions that need to be tackled by way of philosophical analysis. Yet questions regarding the meaning of life have been strangely absent from medical ethics so far. This book brings phenomenology, the main player in the continental tradition of philosophy, to bioethics, and it does so in a comprehensive and clear manner.

    Starting out by analysing illness as an embodied, contextualized, and narrated experience, the book addresses the role of empathy, dialogue, and interpretation in the encounter between health-care professional and patient. Medical science and emerging technologies are then brought to scrutiny as endeavours that bring enormous possibilities in relieving human suffering but also great risks in transforming our fundamental life views. How are we to understand and deal with attempts to change the predicaments of coming to life and the possibilities of becoming better than well or even, eventually, surviving death?

    This is the first book to bring the phenomenological tradition, including philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Edith Stein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, Hans Jonas, and Charles Taylor, to answer such burning questions.



     1. Phenomenological bioethics 

    2. The suffering person 

    3. The body uncanny 

    4. Empathy and the hermeneutics of medicine 

    5. Medical technologies and the life world 

    6. The beginning of life 

    7. Surviving death




    Fredrik Svenaeus is professor of philosophy at Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden.

    "Drawing on the insights and methodologies of existentialism, phenomenology, and hermeneutics to deepen our understanding of health and illness, Phenomenological Bioethics is a timely and path-breaking work. With his signature clarity and accessibility, Fredrik Svenaeus illuminates the situated and experiential aspects of suffering, embodiment, empathy, and death that are all too often neglected in current bioethical debates." Kevin Aho, Professor of Philosophy, Florida Gulf Coast University

    "A ground-breaking development in medical bioethics, this book is the first to use phenomenology to analyse and understand contemporary bio-ethical issues, such as organ transplantation and assisted reproduction. This book announces the birth of a new field - phenomenological biomedical ethics - and is an important development for both philosophy of medicine and for phenomenology." Havi Carel, Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol

    "Hitherto, few Anglo-American bioethicists have benefitted from the riches to be found in philosophical phenomenology.  This can perhaps be traced to the phenomenologists’ inhospitable language. Fortunately, in invitingly clear language, Svenaeus now offers a wonderfully thoughtful and accessible introduction to phenomenology - and shows how it can illuminate questions of bioethics."  — Erik Parens, Senior Research Scholar, The Hastings Center, Garrison, NY