Bioethics

“Into the Future: Concluding Remarks”
Presenter: David Halperin
Commentator: Lance Wahlert

David Halperin is a University of Michigan professor, who has written several books, including “What do Gay Men Want? An essay on Sex, Risk, and Subjectivity.” Halperin elaborated on this particular book as an example of one of his central objectives. According to the professor, he wants to move away from the normalizing characteristics in the study of queer bioethics. Halperin stated that he sees a need for a non-disciplinary model to the study of HIV and queer bioethics, seeing that disciplines themselves are normalizing. Halperin elaborated further on this call stating that an emphasis on non-disciplinary approaches to the bioethical field opens up the possibility of simply understanding things differently. Further, Halperin stated that this was the driving factor behind What do Gay Men Want.

Lance Wahlert, the respondent to Halperin, made a very interesting comment in reference to the normalization of queer bioethics. According to Wahlert, queer bioethics can be termed as an oxymoron of sorts, seeing that queer means “not normal” and ethics alludes to determining what is right and wrong, a very normalizing field. According to Wahlert, conversations regarding what is “right” and what is “wrong,” make the queer community feel weary because they have “historically come out on the wrong side of the conversation.” Wahlert’s claim is controversial, seeing that he suggests that the study of right and wrong practices in medicine and research would make the queer community weary. I consider this extrapolation somewhat overextended. To say that a conversation of ethics makes the queer community weary implies that the community is not completely willing to withstand the conversation. If this were true, Wahlert then implies that the queer community would not take a stand for their rights to respect and dignity in the fields of medicine and biology. That this conference was being held attests to the fact that the queer community is invested in fair and ethical treatment.

This conversation was extremely pertinent to our current topic in class. In addressing the treatment of intersexuals in recent history, questions of ethics most certainly come up. What role did the queer community play to reach the current stage of queer bioethics we are in now? We learned in class that there has been some advance and development in the ways in which intersex patients are treated, although there is still much more to be done. I also use this class topic to address Wahlert: How far has Wahlert gone in his extrapolation of the weariness the queer community feels in discussing questions of right and wrong? For instance, “As Nature Made Him” is a stark criticism of the unethical experimentation done on David Reimer. Seeing this, my first instinct is to think that the queer community would galvanize over the question of queer bioethics, rather than shy away from the conversation.

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