Medical Ethics in the English and Scottish Enlightenment
His contemporaries remembered Michael Ryan (d. 1840) as an Irishman, a learned and kind-hearted colleague, a prolific writer, editor of the London Medical and Surgical Journal, and a colorful disputationist who regularly went toe-to-toe with Thomas Wakley (1795–1862), the acerbic and outspoken founding editor of The Lancet. Later historians identified him as one of the founders of modern medical ethics, and the first to link the medical ethics of his own day with the historical tradition of the Hippocratic Oath. Ryan was a seminal figure in the development of medical jurisprudence and an original thinker on research ethics, apparently the first to publicly defend the necessity of obtaining the informed consent of the research subject. Ryan appears to have been the only person in Great Britain, during the middle years of the nineteenth century, to attempt to produce a systematic account of medical ethics, for use especially by medical students. While relatively little of his thinking was original, Ryan is noteworthy for addressing medical ethics under the broader rubric of medical jurisprudence, identifying some important ethical issues in his other special-interest area, obstetrics, and breaking some new ground with his ethical reflections. He also advocated addressing medical ethics as a critical portion of the curriculum for medical students.