Bioethicists Should Be Helping Scientists Think About Race

Bioethicists Should Be Helping Scientists Think About Race

Original Research

Open Access. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (2021). Published online: 7 January 2021

Camisha Russell

Abstract: In this essay, I argue that bioethicists have a thus-far unfulfilled role to play in helping life scientists, including medical doctors and researchers, think about race. I begin with descriptions of how life scientists tend to think about race and descriptions of typical approaches to bioethics. I then describe three different approaches to race: biological race, race as social construction, and race as cultural driver of history. Taking into account the historical and contemporary interplay of these three approaches, I suggest an alternative framework for thinking about race focused on how the idea of race functions socially. Finally, using assisted reproductive technologies as an example, I discuss how bioethicists and scientists might work together using this framework to improve not only their own but broader perspectives on race.

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