“Living with a disability is described as a risk.”
“Prenatal diagnostics: Which babies do we want?” in the Braunschweig House of Science Prenatal medicine Prof. Dr. Klaus Zerresemeritus at the University Hospital of the RWTH Aachen, the medical ethicist and managing director of the Lebenshilfe Prof. Dr. Jeanne Nicklas Faust and the political scientist dr Sabine Koenninger from the Institute for Humans, Ethics and Science.
The event will take place in the Haus der Wissenschaft, Pockelsstraße 11, 38106 Braunschweig and will be streamed live on our website and YouTube: Registration is not required.
A previous conversation on the discourse with the linguist Constanze Spieß:
Professor Spieß, in your research you look at the language used in debates on bioethical issues. How do you go about doing this and which topics have you focused on so far?
I looked at three discourses in particular: The debate about the human embryonic Stem cell research related to preimplantation genetic diagnosis and the about genetic blood tests – i.e. non-invasive prenatal tests (NIPT). I examine both the language used in the speeches in the Bundestag and the debate about it in the media. My primary concern is to find out central argumentation patterns, keywords and metaphors and then to look at which positions are associated with the specific use of language.
What did you find out?
The various discourses are very closely linked. Ultimately, it is always about fundamental questions of human existence: When does human life begin? What is human dignity and how is it primarily defined? Which life is worth living? These questions have actually been running through the various bioethical discourses since the debates about § 218 in the Weimar period and later in the 1990s to the present day. The arguments are also similar. The arguments for and against are therefore always taken up – regardless of whether it is about pre-implantation diagnostics or NIPT.
What image of man is conveyed in these discourses via language?
The language allows conclusions to be drawn about the perspective of the speaker – for example about his idea of being human. An example of this is the term used for the fertilized egg cell in this debate. Proponents of the tests avoid labeling them with human attributes and try to use terms such as “cellular material” or “zygote” whenever possible. Opponents of the test, on the other hand, speak of “human life” or “baby”. These modes of expression refer to the different conceptions of when human life begins and thus to the different conceptions of what it means to be human.
In turn, how much does the use of such terms shape the public image of a new medical application?
We want that in a current research project watch over a long period of time. We examine various bioethical discourses from 1990 to the present and we want to analyze argumentation patterns, central keywords and metaphors and find out how these are interconnected. In a first step, we look at the relevant Bundestag debates to see which words are particularly significant and particularly relevant, and use them to create keyword lists. Then we look at which media, by which actors and in which contexts these keywords are used and which communicative purposes are associated with them.