“Bioethics Policy” As a New Interdisciplinary Study


  • Kyungsuk Choi


Bioethics is often called “applied ethics.” But the idea of “mechanical or simple application” of traditional ethical theories is wrong. For bioethical issues are so novel and unprecedented that many of them do not give a great help. In addition, “applied ethics” does not reflect interdisciplinary characteristics of bioethics. Bioethical problems require bioethics as an interdisciplinary study to respond to challenges of societal policy-making relevant to them. I argue for “bioethics policy study” as an new interdisciplinary discipline.

The reason most of bioethical issues are difficult to be resolved lies in the fact that there are reasonable disagreements. Reasonable disagree- ment means “disagreement among reasonable persons.” What Rawls calls “the burdens of judgment” explains why we have such disagree- ment. We should accept reasonable disagreement and pluralism as facts of our pluralistic society.

While bioethics just tries to give an answer to bioethical issues from its own perspective, bioethics policy study tries to give a societal agreement with respecting and tolerating various reasonable compre- hensive doctrines and perspectives.

Thus the main research question of “bioethics policy” as a study is “how can we make policies on ethical issues to which answers are elusive and often conflicting among individuals consisting of a society?”

Interdisciplinary studies in bioethics policy are important in that they have to deal with fundamental questions to each discipline relevant to bioethics policy. Bioethical issues require us to reconsider fundamental philosophical and/or theological questions modern philosophers avoided and may lead philosophy to a new project. Bioethical issues also raise the question “What is the role of law in ethical issues?” for law.

I argue that an interdisciplinary study is meaningful when it stimu- lates each discipline involved. I emphasize “spiral development of interdisciplinary studies.”

Author Biography

Kyungsuk Choi

College of Law, Ewha Womans University






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