Women and Bioethics: an ethics of careKate | September 20, 2017
Last weekend, I attended a conference held by the Italian Society of Catholic Lawyers. This two-day conference focused on the relationship between women, ethics, and law. A wide number of young lawyers had the chance to enrich their understanding of such topics.
The conference analysed a variety historical, philosophical, legal, and ethical perspectives. In this article, I will focus on the relationship between women and bioethics.
According to Professor Mele, an Italian expert in the field of bioethics, bioethics needs to be rewritten with a more “women-based perspective”. Such an idea is translated into the need to analyse all the bioethical dilemmas through an “ethics of care”, namely one that holds interpersonal relationships and care or benevolence as a virtue as central to moral action.Women are, in this sense, perceived to be models of a paradigmatic ethical approach, namely maternal care.
As the mother carries her baby for nine months and takes care of her child throughout life, so should every man and woman care for other individuals they encounter. Each of us is indeed part of a chain of relationships, whether we acknowledge it or not, which call us to show care and commitment towards each other. In this sense, we are called to show “compassion” in its proper Latin sense of “cum-patire”. We are called not to be indifferent to others’ needs, but to support each other.
However, the need to rediscover the role of women as mothers might be perceived to be an anachronistic one. One might argue that it reflects gender-stereotypes and undermines the true nature of women. However, this perspective does not want to deny women’s engagement in different areas of public life, but it wants to rediscover their God-given inner nature as models of nurturing and care.
Such a perspective is paradigmatic for the bioethics field since it gives a broader meaning to every bioethical dilemma. Every time we are faced with ethical dilemmas in the medical setting, it is not enough to follow a mere “ethics of justice”, which proscribe a need to act in accordance to certain rules. Instead, there is a need to go beyond this and to embrace an “ethic of care”which calls to protect and respecting each person. Following a maternal model, we need to take care of others, keeping in mind that we do not need to substitute them in their personal choices, but to accompany and guide them side by side in every crucial decision.
Rewriting bioethics through the lens of women means in the end rediscovering the need for a more humanized society.