In the last two decades, particularly, the realization of the impact of biology on all of us has propelled bioethics into the public square where law, policy, and adjudication of conflicts take place. Bioethics has thus become politicized. When ethics does enter the public square can it co-exist with politics, or is Machiavelli right that politics has no place for ethics? Can they interact without one capitulating to the other? Can each retain its own identity and social purpose? What obligations does the bioethics community incur when it resorts to politics? Can it heal the rifts in the social fabric that a polarized and polemicized debate must produce? Can bioethics in the end be done in the public square in a truly democratic, truly diverse society?
To address these questions it is necessary to examine the current state of moral discourse in bioethics, the rifts its politicization may produce in societys moral fabric, and the ethically proper relationships between politics and ethics. To undergird the discussion, some definitions and distinctions must be made first.