Medical Technologies, Environmental Conservation, and Health Care

Bibliographic information:

Richie, Cristina. “Medical Technologies, Environmental Conservation, and Health Care,” Medicina e Morale 65, no. 6 (2016): 759-772.


Van Rensselaer Potter believed that we are at a point where «knowledge is accumulating faster than the wisdom to manage it». This applies to medical technology, certainly. But it also applies to climate change. We know, for instance, that «air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk». Yet we, as a society, do not have the wisdom to create strategies for halting climate change, let alone implement them. Environmental bioethics is one source of wisdom that can provide strategies for addressing climate change, that is, “the wisdom to manage it.” This article will first locate the conceptual origins of “bioethics” within the long tradition of Catholic moral theology, followed by the more recent advent of bioethics within secular ethics. Then, I will detail the two basic strands of modern bioethics since the 1970’s: environmental bioethics and the Georgetown mantra. After this background has been provided, the crux of my article will be put forth. I will synthesize the many conversations occurring within medical technologies, health care, and environmental conservation into three basic models constitutive of environmental bioethics. I have named these “the technology model,” “the health care model” and “the ecology model.” My objective is not to advance one paradigm over another. Rather, categorizing should lead to a more dynamic and effective conversation on environmental sustainability in the medical industry. Efforts at reuniting ecology and bioethics will be a defining feature of health care in the 21st century. And, with variegated approaches to the interplay between ecology, health care, and technology, the common roots of environmental ethics and bioethics can produce a seamless garment for a truly bio (life) ethic.


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