My children have no idea what I do. According to my six year old, bioethics is not a job; it's where I am before I come home, and what I do on my computer. One of the badges I was issued by New York State's public health labs when I came to Albany said "Chief, Office of Bioethics," and when he saw it, my son patted me on the back for finding a real job: He thought I was a police chief.

That bioethics is impossible to explain to a child isn't all that troubling, unless you are Dad. Still, the presence of bioethics in virtually every major debate about social values has made it more difficult to explain what it is that those who work in bioethics actually do, or how to recognize when we are doing it well. How can any scholarly field be broad enough to address...

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