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Clin Anat. 1998;11(2):100-5.

Anatomy and ethics: an exploration of some ethical dimensions of contemporary anatomy.

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Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Anatomy and ethics have traditionally been viewed as inhabiting different conceptual worlds on the assumption that the practice of anatomy is ethically neutral. This assumption is challenged by critiquing the nature of anatomy and by demonstrating that ethical issues pervade anatomical study. This should come as no surprise since anatomy deals with the structure of the human body, and it is the human body and human tissues that are central to bioethical questions concerning human life in both health and disease, at its beginning and end and in research and clinical practice. Furthermore, many issues of interest to anatomists, such as the mechanisms of organ and fetal tissue transplantation, the neurological bases of aging and dementia, and definitions of brain death, are best tackled by venturing into questions usually dealt with in a clinical context. By the same token, a number of clinical issues can be approached helpfully from starting points provided by anatomy, although they too have ethical dimensions. To illustrate the close interrelationship between anatomical and ethical issues, two topic areas are discussed: research on archeological human remains and the notion of the pre-embryo.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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