The making of British bioethics

By Duncan Wilson

The making of British bioethics

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9619-8
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: October 2014
  • BIC Category: History of Medicine, History, History of medicine, MEDICAL / Ethics, SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Biology, MEDICAL / History, Bio-Ethics, Medicine / History of medicine


This book is open access under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence. The making of British bioethics provides the first in-depth study of how philosophers, lawyers and other 'outsiders' came to play a major role in discussing and helping to regulate issues that used to be left to doctors and scientists. It details how British bioethics emerged thanks to a dynamic interplay between sociopolitical concerns and the aims of specific professional groups and individuals who helped create the demand for outside involvement and transformed themselves into influential 'ethics experts'. Highlighting this interplay helps us appreciate how issues such as embryo research and assisted dying became high-profile 'bioethical' concerns in the late twentieth century, and why different groups now play a critical role in developing regulatory standards and leading public debates. The book draws on a wide range of original sources and will be of interest to historians of medicine and science, general historians and bioethicists.


1. Ethics 'by and for professions': the origins and endurance of club regulation
2. Ian Ramsey, theology and 'trans-disciplinary' medical ethics
3. 'Who's for bioethics?' Ian Kennedy, oversight and accountability in the 1980s
4. 'Where to draw the line?' Mary Warnock, embryos and moral expertise
5. 'A service to the community as a whole': the emergence of bioethics in British universities
6. Consolidating the 'ethics industry': a national ethics committee and bioethics during the 1990s


Duncan Wilson is a research associate at the University of Manchester's Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM)

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