Dr. Jessica Pierce is a writer and bioethicist. She has published a number of books, including Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, Contemporary Bioethics: A Reader with Cases (forthcoming in October, 2009) Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics and The Ethics of Environmentally Responsible Health Care. Dr. Pierce is Associate Faculty at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Center for Bioethics and Humanities. She lives in Longmont, Colorado. Her website is http://www.jessicapierce.net. 


The first sentence of The Ethics of Environmentally Responsible Health Care  reads, “The foundation of human health rests on healthy, stable ecosystems.” One rarely encounters this view expressed in medical literature, yet it lies at the heart of creating a sustainable modern healthcare system. 

By far the majority of analyses of the American healthcare focus narrowly on reform –slight to dramatic- through rebalancing the (allegedly) three core issues of the 1) cost, 2) coverage and 3) quality of care. Pierce and Jameton locate medicine in the context of ecological sustainability, which correctly subsumes –not negates- these three issues. 

As is often the case when great social change is occurring, few scholars see it coming and also offer a cogent outline of the ethical challenges posed by such momentous upheavals. Pierce and Jameton’s is one of those books. 

For example, typically “medical ethics” is devoted to issues stemming from the (allegedly) sacrosanct value of what’s best for the patient.  Questions about humanity’s organic connection to and responsibility to the natural environment are not asked or are given short shrift. These authors show how the earth is not a passive, inert and inexhaustible repository of goodies for medicine to dip into at will at no cost or consequence.

This book articulates an alternative discourse integral to the viability of healthcare in the 21st century, as its chapter titles evidence:

1) The Challenge of Environmental Responsibility; 2) Linking Health and Environmental Change; 3) Population and Consumption; 4) Environmental Aspects of Healthcare; 5) The Green Health Center; 6) At the Bedside; 7) Global Bioethics and Justice; and 8) New Ways of Thinking About Bioethics.

Click here to listen to Jessica’s discussion with Dan Bednarz