Assessing empirical research in bioethics

Empirical research can aid ethical reflection in bioethics by identifying issues, by seeing how they are currently resolved, and by assessing the consequences of these current resolutions. This potential can be misused when the ethical issues in question are fundamentally non-consequentialist or when they are consequentialist but the empirical research fails to address the important consequences. An example of the former problem is some recent studies about bad consequences resulting from commercialized living kidney donor programs. These consequences could be avoided, but the crucial non-consequentialist ethical issues about exploitation and commercialization would still remain. Examples of the latter problem are provided by recent studies of the allocation of ICU beds and of physician deception, where important consequences were not adequately studied.
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