The Phantom Economy   /   Summer 2010   /    Book Reviews

Origin Stories

On the margins of bioethics, looking in.

Leigh Turner

A reproduction of Rembrandt’s painting, “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” adorns the cover of Renée Fox and Judith Swazey’s book, Observing Bioethics. A chalky white corpse, identified by art historians as the body of an executed criminal, lies on a wooden table. To the right, Dr. Tulp, author of Observationes Medicae, holds open the dissected left arm of the cadaver. Seven figures observe the anatomy lesson. It’s an interesting choice of image for the cover of a book examining the history and sociology of bioethics. Are readers to think of bioethics as the body on the social scientists’ dissecting table? Does their choice of painting tell us something about the often antagonistic relationship between the social sciences and bioethics?

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