THE DILEMMA OF THE FETUS by Steven Maynard-Moody


Fetal Research, Medical Progress, and Moral Politics
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 A careful investigation of the controversy over fetal research, with special attention paid to how a volatile scientific issue plays out in a democratic society. Maynard-Moody (Public Administration/Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence) has been writing on fetal research since the 1970s, when he contributed a chapter on the subject to Controversy: The Politics of Technical Decisions (1979). He asserts that the tension between our devotion to progress and our fear that science erodes human values underlies the fetal research controversy. He examines how advances in knowledge and medical practice are changing our concept of the fetus, how the politicization of morality has affected the relationship between government and science, and how the pull of progress finally broke the hold of moral politics on this issue. Maynard-Moody recounts the history of fetal research from the early 1960s, when the thalidomide disaster (hundreds of European women who had taken the drug during pregnancy gave birth to babies with badly malformed limbs) spurred testing of drug safety on the fetus, to 1993, when President Clinton, as one of his first acts, ended the federal ban on funding fetal-tissue transplantation research. The early excitement over fetal research was tempered in the 1970s, when researchers found themselves under fire by right-to-life groups, which linked the research to abortion. The author traces the controversy's history over the next two decades as pressure groups, Congress, the White House, and various scientific commissions got involved. In the end, science won out when fetal- tissue transplants proved promising in treating a number of conditions, including Parkinson's disease. Still unresolved are tough ethical questions raised by the dependence of fetal research on abortions. To Maynard-Moody, more important than the specifics of this controversy are larger questions about the impact of scientific controversies on policymaking and the role of government in regulating science. Thorough, thoughtful, and thought-provoking analysis. (b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11785-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995