With hope and imagination: Imaginative moral decision-making in neonatal intensive care units [Book Review]

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (1):3 - 21 (2007)
Abstract
Although the role of imagination in moral reasoning is often neglected, recent literature, mostly of pragmatist signature, points to imagination as one of its central elements. In this article we develop some of their arguments by looking at the moral role of imagination in practice, in particular the practice of neonatal intensive care. Drawing on empirical research, we analyze a decision-making process in various stages: delivery, staff meeting, and reflection afterwards. We show how imagination aids medical practitioners demarcating moral categories, tuning their actions, and exploring long-range consequences of decisions. We argue that imagination helps to bring about at least four kinds of integration in the moral decision-making process: personal integration by creating a moral self-image in moments of reflection; social integration by aiding the conciliation of the diverging perspectives of the people involved; temporal integration by facilitating the parties to transcend the present moment and connect past, present, and future; and epistemological integration by helping to combine the various forms of knowledge and experience needed to make moral decisions. Furthermore, we argue that the role of imagination in these moral decision-processes is limited in several significant ways. Rather than being a solution itself, it is merely an aid and cannot replace the decision itself. Finally, there are also limits to the practical relevance of this theoretical reflection. In the end, it is up to care professionals as reflective practitioners to re-imagine the practice of intensive care and make the right decisions with hope and imagination.
Keywords imagination  moral theory  moral decision-making  pragmatism  neonatal intensive care  medical ethics
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