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Wounded Planet

'Wounded Planet' cover image

Wounded Planet

How Declining Biodiversity Endangers Health and How Bioethics Can Help

Exploring the interconnectedness of human health, biodiversity, and bioethics.

We all depend on environmental biodiversity for clean air, safe water, adequate nutrition, effective drugs, and protection from infectious diseases. Today's healthcare experts and policymakers are keenly aware that biodiversity is one of the crucial determinants of health—not only for individuals but also for the human population of the planet. Unfortunately, rapid globalization and ongoing environmental degradation mean that biodiversity is rapidly deteriorating, threatening planetary health on a mass scale.

In Wounded Planet, Henk A.M.J. ten Have argues that the ethical debate about healthcare has become too narrow and individualized. We must, he writes, adopt a new bioethical discourse—one that deals with issues of justice, equality, vulnerability, human rights, and solidarity—in order to adequately reflect the serious threat that current loss of biodiversity poses to planetary health. Exploring modern environmental challenges in depth, ten Have persuasively demonstrates that environmental concerns can no longer be separated from healthcare challenges, and thus should be included in global bioethics.

Going beyond an individualized perspective, he poses audacious questions: What does it mean that patients are poor or uninsured and cannot afford suggested medicines? How can we deal with the air and water pollution that are producing a patient's illness? How do we respond to patients complaining about the safety and quality of drinking water in their neighborhood? Touching on infectious and noncommunicable diseases, as well as food, medicine, and water, Wounded Planet transcends the limited vision of mainstream bioethics to compassionately reveal how healthcare and medicine must take a broad perspective that includes the social and environmental conditions in which individuals live.