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American Journal of Bioethics.

Outsider/Insider

The editors of The American Journal of Bioethics chose well when they invited me to write a preface for this issue devoted to the Insider/Outsider problem in bioethics: I am the original and perpetual insider/outsider in the field. My entry into medical education, in 1972, was marked by an argument over my title: should I be designated Professor of Medical Ethics, as the Dean of University of California School of Medicine wished? A very senior faculty member objected, saying that the title was inappropriate since I did not do anything medical. The newly minted word “bioethicist” was bestowed upon me to make it clear that I was an outsider. In the subsequent forty years of my career as a bioethicist, I shifted from outside to inside on multiple commissions, committees, panels, and publications. Each role had its title, from the most prestigious insider Professor to the Adjunct, barely hanging on (my favorite title was the very Oxonian “Visiting Member of the Senior Common Room,” which, despite its ephemeral tone, allowed me inside imposing Christ Church for a year at High Table, than which nothing is more inside). Arthur Caplan once introduced me as the Forrest Gump of bioethics: wherever bioethics was discussed, there was Jonsen (ironically, Caplan inherited the role!).

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Volume 18, Issue 1
June 2018