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The Role of Empirical Data in Bioethics: a Philosopher's View

Empirical Methods for Bioethics: A Primer

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1266-5, eISBN: 978-1-84950-383-9

ISSN: 1479-3709

Publication date: 5 December 2007


How many textbooks or introductory articles in bioethics begin with a section on ethical theory? Of the many that do, the relevance of basic theories of utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, feminist ethics, casuistry and so on, is assumed. These theories are also considered in light of the well-accepted principles of medical ethics: (1) respect for patient autonomy, (2) beneficence, (3) non-maleficence and (4) justice. Those of us trained in philosophy find these sections on theory terse summations of complex philosophical views. Physicians and nurses, and others not trained in philosophy, sometimes struggle to get their gist, and end up with an ability to make a basic analysis and formulate arguments about ethical problems from each of these perspectives, and to write and discuss the issues that arise with fellow ethicists. But how essential are these theoretical perspectives to the real work of clinical ethics consultants? It is important that we do not forget just how applied and practical that work is.


Shelton, W. (2007), "The Role of Empirical Data in Bioethics: a Philosopher's View", Jacoby, L. and Siminoff, L.A. (Ed.) Empirical Methods for Bioethics: A Primer (Advances in Bioethics, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 13-20.



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