Is There an Ethicist in the House?

About the book

In this timely book, Jonathan D. Moreno takes up some of the most important questions in clinical ethics today. Moreno’s view is that moral values emerge out of human experience, a view that creates a compelling conceptual framework for bioethics.

To begin, Moreno recalls his experience as a hospital ethicist and how that shaped his understanding of what bioethics is about, both as theory and practice. His focus then turns to a difficult moral paradox: the need to advance medical knowledge by using human beings in research. His account of the way American medicine has reached a strong protectionist approach to managing this paradox leads to discussions of vulnerable groups whose circumstances demand that we reflect on the way this issue should be approached in the future.

Moreno then takes up the historical and ethical role of the national security dimensions of human experimentation. His account casts a drastically different light on the origins of modern bioethics, especially on the central document of modern human experimentation, the Nuremberg Code.

In the last section, Moreno pushes the bioethics envelope in a naturalistic examination of emerging values concerning the neurosciences and bioterrorism.

Is There an Ethicist in the House? tackles difficult issues with clarity and insight. The book will be welcomed not only by medical professionals but also by lay readers who seek to understand the philosophical foundations of contemporary medical ethics.


“Is There an Ethicist in the House? has many virtues. Not only is it an excellent overview of bioethics, both for the general informed reader and for students, each chapter in the book is presented by someone whose life as one of the leading bioethicists in the field touches and is touched by the topics he is describing.”
—Contemporary Psychology, PSYCHcritique

“The question Is there a physician in the house? is easy to answer. However, the seemingly parallel question Is there an ethicist in the house? is at once both jarring and provocative. This latter question serves as the focal point for Moreno’s naturalistic investigation into the role and risks of being an ethicist employed in a biomedical or clinical setting. Moreno’s approach is naturalistic through being historically indebted to the American pragmatism of William James and John Dewey. More directly, Moreno (Univ. of Virginia) admits that his naturalism is evident by reference to. . . personal and professional experience, a case-oriented approach, and an emphasis on historical inquiry in making sense of current circumstances and judgments. This relatively short but highly engaging work is packed with poignant theory and realistic practice. It includes careful definitions of key terms and rich discussions of issues ranging from the function of and decision making by ethics committees, to research on human subjects, truth telling, and neuroethics. Moreno begins his book with the claim that this volume is. . . not an introduction to bioethics so much as a re-visioning of the field. By the end, he has not only offered this revisioning, but may also have succeeded in revitalizing the discipline. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.—H. Storl, AugustanaCollege (IL)”

“In this timely collection of writings, Jonathan Moreno demonstrates the maturity of the field of bioethics . .”


Comments are closed.