The emergence of bioethics in Australia: contesting life, death, and the purpose of medicine
Topic: This talk explores the social, legal, and medical developments that led to the emergence of bioethical experts in the 1980s. Rather than speaking to narrow audiences in the university, profession or church, these experts engaged in public contestation over the beginning and end of human life and the purpose and values of medicine. Multiple factors contributed to these developments, however the world-leading research at Monash University in relation to artificial reproductive technologies had an undeniable effect, particularly in raising questions about the moral status of embryonic life. The speed with which reproductive technologies developed, in combination with a number of related events, led to a proliferation of bioethical experts advising the State, University researchers, medical practitioners, and the wider public(s) on the moral and legal status of embryos. In revisiting this period, my interest is not in re-igniting or resolving debates over the moral and legal status of embryos, but in the emergence of bioethical experts and how this history may be instructive for understanding contemporary public discourses over morality and the biomedical sciences.
About the speaker: Christopher Mayes is a Research Fellow in the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University and Research-Affiliate in Sydney Health Ethics at the University of Sydney. He is the author of The Biopolitics of Lifestyle: Foucault, Ethics, and Healthy Choices (Routledge, 2016) and his forthcoming book, Unsettling Food Politics: agriculture, dispossession, and sovereignty in Australia (Rowman & Littlefield International), examines contemporary political and ethical discourses of food and agriculture in Australia. In 2017, he received a Discovery Early Career Research Award from the Australian Research Council to research the history of bioethics in Australia.
About PEACE: PEACEtalks is a monthly event hosted by Paddington Anglican Church aimed at serving the community by promoting and cultivating deep conversations about life, the world and everything. ‘PEACE’ stands for ‘political, ethical, artistic & cultural engagement’. As such, our events seek to take all of these areas of our shared humanity seriously in a world where such things are often marginalised. We also seek to demonstrate the ways in which spiritual and theological reflection enable us to look at all of these important areas afresh. All welcome!