Setting the agenda for urban bioethics

J Urban Health. 2001 Mar;78(1):7-20. doi: 10.1093/jurban/78.1.7.


Urban bioethics has two goals. First, it aims to focus attention on neglected bioethical problems that have particular salience in urban settings. Three problems are highlighted: socioeconomic inequality as a major determinant of health inequality, the foundations of an ethic for public health, and the impact of social context on the therapeutic alliance between patients and physicians. Second, urban bioethics serves as a vehicle for raising deep theoretical and methodological questions about the dominant assumptions and approaches of contemporary bioethics. Demands for cultural sensitivity, so pronounced in the urban context, compel us to reexamine the central commitment in bioethics to personal autonomy. The multiculturalism of urban life also argues for a dialogic approach to bioethical problem solving rather than the monologic approach that characterizes most bioethical thinking. Although my brief for redirecting bioethics will resonate with many critics who do not consider themselves urban bioethicists, I argue that there are special advantages in using urban bioethics to expose the limitations of contemporary bioethical paradigms.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Bioethics*
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Democracy
  • Female
  • Feminism
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Public Health / standards
  • United States
  • Urban Health Services / standards*