The brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a noted bioethicist, is advising the Obama administration on health care reform.
Although bioethical issues have been debated since ancient times, and public attention briefly focused on the role of human subjects in biomedical experiments following the revelation of Nazi experiments conducted during World War II, the modern field of bioethics first emerged as an academic discipline in the 1960s. Technological advances in such diverse areas as organ transplantation and end-of-life care, including the development of kidney dialysis and respirators, posed novel questions regarding when and how care might be withdrawn. These questions often fell upon philosophers and religious scholars, but by the 1970s, bioethical think tanks and academic bioethics programs emerged. Among the earliest such institutions were the Hastings Center (originally known as The Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences), founded in 1969 by philosopher Daniel Callahan and psychiatrist Willard Gaylin, and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, established at Georgetown University in 1971. The publication of Principles of Bioethics by James F. Childress and Tom Beauchamp—the first American textbook of bioethics—marked a transformative moment in the discipline.
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