David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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BMC Medical Ethics 6 (1):1-9 (2005)
Background The increase in empirical methods of research in bioethics over the last two decades is typically perceived as a welcomed broadening of the discipline, with increased integration of social and life scientists into the field and ethics consultants into the clinical setting, however it also represents a loss of confidence in the typical normative and analytic methods of bioethics. Discussion The recent incipiency of "Evidence-Based Ethics" attests to this phenomenon and should be rejected as a solution to the current ambivalence toward the normative resolution of moral problems in a pluralistic society. While "evidence-based" is typically read in medicine and other life and social sciences as the empirically-adequate standard of reasonable practice and a means for increasing certainty, I propose that the evidence-based movement in fact gains consensus by displacing normative discourse with aggregate or statistically-derived empirical evidence as the "bottom line". Therefore, along with wavering on the fact/value distinction, evidence-based ethics threatens bioethics' normative mandate. The appeal of the evidence-based approach is that it offers a means of negotiating the demands of moral pluralism. Rather than appealing to explicit values that are likely not shared by all, "the evidence" is proposed to adjudicate between competing claims. Quantified measures are notably more "neutral" and democratic than liberal markers like "species normal functioning". Yet the positivist notion that claims stand or fall in light of the evidence is untenable; furthermore, the legacy of positivism entails the quieting of empirically non-verifiable (or at least non-falsifiable) considerations like moral claims and judgments. As a result, evidence-based ethics proposes to operate with the implicit normativity that accompanies the production and presentation of all biomedical and scientific facts unchecked. Summary The "empirical turn" in bioethics signals a need for reconsideration of the methods used for moral evaluation and resolution, however the options should not include obscuring normative content by seemingly neutral technical measure.
|Keywords||info:mesh/Evidence-Based Medicine info:mesh/Cultural Diversity info:mesh/Bioethics info:mesh/Decision Making info:mesh/Infant, Premature info:mesh/Euthanasia, Passive info:mesh/Humans Humans Euthanasia, Passive Methods Decision Making Evidence-Based Medicine Science Empirical Research Cultural Diversity Bioethical Issues Bioethics Infant, Newborn Infant, Premature info:mesh/Methods info:mesh/Bioethical Issues info:mesh/Science info:mesh/Empirical Research info:mesh/Infant, Newborn|
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Bert Molewijk & Guy A. M. Widdershoven (2012). Don't Solve the Issues! Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21 (04):448-456.
A. H. G. van Elteren, T. A. Abma & G. A. M. Widdershoven (2012). Empirical Ethics Within Rapidly Changing Practices. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21 (04):493-504.
Mona Gupta (2010). From Evidence‐Based Care to the Standard of Care. Commentary on Kerridge (2009) Ethics and EBM: Acknowledging Difference, Accepting Difference, and Embracing Politics. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 16 (2):374-375.
Craig Fry (2009). How to Build a Theory About Empirical Bioethics: Acknowledging the Limitations of Empirical Research. American Journal of Bioethics 9 (6-7):83-85.
Michael Loughlin (2011). Criticizing the Data: Some Concerns About Empirical Approaches to Ethics. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 17 (5):970-975.
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