Skip navigation

Timothy F. Murphy

Timothy F. Murphy is Professor of Philosophy in the Biomedical Sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. He is the author of Case Studies in Biomedical Research Ethics (MIT Press, 2004), Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research, and other books.

Titles by This Author

Parents routinely turn to prenatal testing to screen for genetic or chromosomal disorders or to learn their child’s sex. What if they could use similar prenatal interventions to learn (or change) their child’s sexual orientation? Bioethicists have debated the moral implications of this still-hypothetical possibility for several decades. Some commentators fear that any scientific efforts to understand the origins of homosexuality could mean the end of gay and lesbian people, if parents shy away from having homosexual children. Others defend parents’ rights to choose the traits of their children in general and see no reason to treat sexual orientation differently. In this book, Timothy Murphy traces the controversy over prenatal selection of sexual orientation, offering a critical review of the literature and presenting his own argument in favor of parents’ reproductive liberty.

Arguing against commentators who want to restrict the scientific study of sexual orientation or technologies that emerge from that study, Murphy proposes a defense of parents’ right to choose. This, he argues, is the only view that helps protect children from hurtful family environments, that is consistent with the increasing powers of prenatal interventions, and that respects human futures as something other than accidents of the genetic lottery.

This textbook for instruction in biomedical research ethics can also serve as a valuable reference for professionals in the field of bioethics. The 149 cases included in the book are grouped in nine chapters, each of which covers a key area of debate in the field. Some of the case studies are classics, including the famous cases of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (in which subjects with syphilis were not given treatment) and the Willowbrook hepatitis studies (in which institutionalized subjects were intentionally exposed to hepatitis). Others focus on such current issues as human embryonic stem cell research, cloning by somatic nuclear transfer, and the design and function of institutional review boards. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction that places the issues raised in context; this is followed by a number of cases (each of which is no more than a few pages). Study questions meant to encourage further discussion follow each case.

After an introductory discussion of the history and tenets of ethics in medical research, the book's chapters cover the topics of oversight and study design; informed consent; the selection of subjects; conflicts of interest; the social effects of research; embryos, fetuses, and children; genetic research; the use of animals; and authorship and publication. Following these chapters are appendixes with the texts of the Nuremburg Code and the World Declaration of Geneva, two key documents in the establishment of bioethical standards for research. Also included are a glossary, a table of cases by general category, and an alphabetical listing of cases.