Consensus in medical decision making: Analyzing the environment of discourse ethics

Philosophy and Geography 2 (2):201 – 217 (1999)
Abstract
In recent years geographic interest has focused increasingly on the moral and ethical dimensions of social constructions. Much of this work has followed the direction taken by moral philosophers whose principled approach has been applied to a range of ethically or morally problematic contexts. The challenge has been to apply a geographic perspective to an ethical dilemma that seems intractable at the level of ethical principle. This paper uses a geographic perspective to consider in a concrete fashion a current bioethical concern: defining who will or will not be eligible for an organ transplant. Methodologically, it uses the analytic hierarchy process, a multicriterion decision making approach, and Q-analysis to analyze the resulting data. Long known by geographers, Q-analysis presents a methodology for the analysis of relations between two sets of criteria, in this case focus groups and their responses to a hierarchy of criteria. The result is a topology that not only presents but also explains the moral reasoning of members of a diverse set of focus groups constituted at a Canadian hospital to consider the question of organ transplant eligibility.
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