Date of Award

8-2001

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Philosophy

Major Professor

Dr. Glenn C. Graber

Committee Members

Dr. Mary Ann Handel, Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, Dr. Betsy Postow

Abstract

The thesis that I defend in this project is that utilizing a care ethic is helpful in understanding the decisions reached by the observant Jewish community regarding medical care and the influence of genetics on those decisions. Previous analyses, as forms of “traditional” Jewish bioethics, have focused exclusively on the religious laws and principles that determine right action for this group. But it seems to me that identifying other patterns and core elements specific to this group will further illuminate and clarify the decision-making process. Specifically, the importance of relationships, especially family, is a pattern that must be addressed when analyzing the concerns of this community. Refocusing the discussion on relationships, on the “web of interconnectedness” that joins all the members of this community (and these members to other communities as well) will allow us to both make sense of some disparate decisions regarding genetic screening and information, and will allow us to make predictions about future responses this community might make. Hence, in order to understand or even predict the responses that this community will have to issues involved with genetic screening, we will need to understand the application of the relevant religious laws and principles in terms of the community’s emphasis on family relationships. I discuss three particular diseases that have a genetic component, Tay- Sachs Disease, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer, in order to demonstrate the traditional approach and its shortcomings. I will show that augmenting traditional Jewish bioethics with an ethic of care is actually not a new element, but instead describes the process that has been occurring all along.

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