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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Whither Bioethics Now?: The Promise of Relational Theory

Susan Sherwin and Katie Stockdale
International Journal of Feminist 
Approaches to Bioethics 10 (1): 7-29. 2017.


This article reflects on the work of feminist bioethicists over the past ten years, reviewing how effective feminists have been in using relational theory to reorient bioethics and where we hope it will go from here. Feminist bioethicists have made significant achievements using relational theory to shape the notion of autonomy, bringing to light the relevance of patients' social circumstances and where they are situated within systems of privilege and oppression. But there is much work to be done to reorient bioethics so that it is capable of addressing some current public health challenges. We argue that relational theory holds promise for beginning this work.

Here is an excerpt:

One reason to think that it is important to see feminist relational theory as the shaping sensibility through which other normative concepts and ideals can be understood is that a relational lens enables us to see the ways in which the very possibility of solidarity can depend on whether social, political, and economic circumstances make possible the choices and actions that are constitutive of solidarity. For example, drawing upon feminist conceptions of relational personhood and autonomy, author Susan Sherwin (2012) points out that the choices and actions available to individuals are bound up with the choices and actions of agents at other levels of human organization, such as international bodies, corporations, social groups, and governments. Since moral responsibility is limited to what agents actually can choose and do, moral responsibilities across all levels of human organization are intertwined and thus also relational.

The article is here.