“How could anybody think that this is the appropriate way to do bioethics?” Feminist challenges for conceptions of justice in bioethics

In Wendy A. Rogers, Jackie Leach Scully, Stacy M. Carter, Vikki Entwistle & Catherine Mills (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Feminist Bioethics. Routledge. pp. 27-42 (2023)
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In this chapter, I propose that conceptions of justice in bioethics must be feminist, meaning they must be able to capture how the domains of health, healthcare and medicine exacerbate the subordination of those perceived to be women and girls and how injustice impacts their health. After providing context in the first section, I identify three problems with conceptions of justice in the bioethics literature that interfere with their potential to be feminist. They tend to adopt the ahistoricism and distributivism characteristic of theories of justice that have been dominant in political philosophy, and they often rely on gendered conceptions of health that result in troubling comparisons of men and women’s health. My argument is primarily “negative”: it is a critique of generalist conceptions of justice in bioethics. However, in the final section I present characteristics of what a feminist conception of justice needs to look like and indicate how feminist bioethicists are using such a conception in assessing issues of injustice in bioethics. I emphasize the centrality of actual structural injustices, relational egalitarianism, and the assessment of values in conceptions of health and the health sciences.

Author's Profile

Carina Fourie
University of Washington


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