Are there some positions editors just shouldn't publish?
Article Type: Editorial
Subject: Editors (Services)
Author: Kaebnick, Gregory E.
Pub Date: 05/01/2011
Publication: Name: The Hastings Center Report Publisher: Hastings Center Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Hastings Center ISSN: 0093-0334
Issue: Date: May-June, 2011 Source Volume: 41 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 268403505
Full Text: I recently wrote to a friend and occasional Report contributor that part of the job of editor, as I understand it, is to recognize the merit in and, in effect, foster the advancement of work that one actually believes is in some sense wrongheaded. It's a point I want on the table as I introduce the two articles in this issue of the Report--not because I necessarily think these articles are wrongheaded, but because I want it clear that publishing the articles does not necessarily mean I or others at the Center think they are right, either. We publish articles that we think advance thinking, but that can mean publishing articles that challenge morally compelling positions. Thus, deciding whether one agrees with a position expressed in a paper is not the same as deciding whether the paper makes an important point and makes it well.

The articles in this issue both depend on a somewhat similar distinction--roughly, between assessing a moral point and developing policy that would enforce that point. In the lead article, Lawrence Nelson and Brandon Ashby argue that though there are good moral arguments against physician participation in executions, those arguments are not so decisive that all reasonable people must accept them. In fact, there is room for reasonable disagreement about physician participation in executions, and as long as there is, professional medical organizations may discourage members from participating but should not destroy the careers of those who do anyway.

In the second article, Chiara Lepora and Joseph Millum argue that physicians can sometimes appropriately decide to be complicit in torture, even though torture is wrong. Complicity is not always appropriate, they argue, and should always be minimized, but a blanket prohibition on complicity in torture is mistaken. In fact, carefully minimized complicity can actually be good for the people undergoing torture. This point, too, echoes a point Nelson and Ashby make: if executions are going to occur, it may well be beneficial for those being executed to have physicians participating in them.

Some articles make for challenging reading because the arguments are intricate. These articles make for challenging reading because the topics are unpleasant.

Also in this issue is a second installment of essays we selected in the informal essay contest we held last year to commemorate the Report's fortieth volume. We had asked for up-and-coming people in bioethics to tell us what the field should do in the next forty years. Many people wrote about the topics they felt needed attention, and we published a set of those essays in the November-December 2010 issue. Many also wrote about method--about how bioethics should be done--and the set in this issue draws from these submissions. Harold Braswell calls for renewed attention to how bioethical issues are framed. Lisa Campo-Engelstein and Sarah Rodriguez call for institutionalized collaborations between bioethicists and scientists as a way of broadening perspectives and developing a common moral framework. And in the essay we put up front, Amy Paul calls for greater respect for people with whom we disagree--a point that may reverberate especially loudly in this issue.
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