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La bioetica. Alla ricerca dei principi

Anno XXII, n. 99, ottobre-dicembre 1987
Centro Einaudi


Bioethics. In search of principles

The author professes a lay approach and dedicates his paper to the search for guiding principles in the face of the problems of bioethics. He first examines, on a meta-ethical plane, attempts to establish the principles of bioethics as 'true' principles that are, hence, not dependent upon individual choices. In this sense, the critical analysis of the appeal to nature is particularly well developed with its investigation of the different meanings which the word 'nature' has actually taken on. Concluding, in line with his previous work, that ethics and its principles are neither true nor false but are simply expressions of the different personalities and the different responses of each individual to his own existential queries, Scarpelli observes the variety and diversity of ethical trends in contemporary culture. In his approach to this situation he revives and defends the liberal principle of tolerance, up-dating it for use in bioethics itself – there must be the utmost tolerance for individual choices. Scarpelli uses the question of euthanasia as a pure and obvious example for the application of the principle. The latter, however, comes up against limitations even in the most radical formulations, the most conspicuous being the damage that may be done to others. The investigation goes on to refer to these and the other classical issues in the history of tolerance in a bioethical perspective. All this entails discussion of problems such as that of the status of a baby-to-be, artificial insemination, genetical technologies, and the desirable characteristics of human beings in the future. The paper concludes by noting the significance and consequences of the principle of tolerance in terms of economic policies and from a legal point of view.