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Contextualizing Ethical Dilemmas: Ethnography for Bioethics

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


Ethnography is a qualitative, naturalistic research method derived from the anthropological tradition. Ethnography uses participant observation supplemented by other research methods to gain holistic understandings of cultural groups’ beliefs and behaviors. Ethnography contributes to bioethics by: (1) locating bioethical dilemmas in their social, political, economic, and ideological contexts; (2) explicating the beliefs and behaviors of involved individuals; (3) making tacit knowledge explicit; (4) highlighting differences between ideal norms and actual behaviors; (5) identifying previously unrecognized phenomena; and (6) generating new questions for research. More comparative and longitudinal ethnographic research can contribute to better understanding of and responses to bioethical dilemmas.


Gordon, E.J. and Wolder Levin, B. (2007), "Contextualizing Ethical Dilemmas: Ethnography for Bioethics", Jacoby, L. and Siminoff, L.A. (Ed.) Empirical Methods for Bioethics: A Primer (Advances in Bioethics, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 83-116.



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