Being, doing, and knowing: Developing ethical competence in health care [Book Review]

Journal of Academic Ethics 5 (2-4):207-216 (2007)
Abstract
There is a growing interest in ethical competence-building within nursing and health care practising. This tendency is accompanied by a remarkable growth of ethical guidelines. Ethical demands have also been laid down in laws. Present-day practitioners and researchers in health care are thereby left in a virtual cross-fire of various legislations, codes, and recommendations, all intended to guide behaviour. The aim of this paper was to investigate the role of ethical guidelines in the process of ethical competence-building within health care practice and medical research. A conceptual and critical philosophical analysis of some paragraphs of the Helsinki Declaration and of relevant literature was performed. Three major problems related to ethical guidelines were identified, namely, the interpretation problem (there is always a gap between the rule and the practice, which implies that ethical competence is needed for those who are to implement the guidelines); the multiplicity problem (the great number of codes, declarations, and laws might pull in different directions, which may confuse the health care providers who are to follow them); and the legalisation problem (ethics concerns may take on a legal form, where ethical reflection is replaced by a procedure of legal interpretations). Virtue ethics might be an alternative to a rule based approach. This position, however, can turn ethics into a tacit knowledge, leading to poorly reflected and inconsistent ethical decisions. Ethical competence must consist of both being (virtues) and doing (rules and principles), but also of knowing (critical reflection), and therefore a communicative based model is suggested.
Keywords codes  communication  ethical competence  ethics regulation  professionalism  virtues
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