Contributions of empirical research to medical ethics

Abstract
Empirical research pertaining to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), clinician behaviors related to do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders and substituted judgment suggests potential contributions to medical ethics. Research quantifying the likelihood of surviving CPR points to the need for further philosophical analysis of the limitations of the patient autonomy in decision making, the nature and definition of medical futility, and the relationship between futility and professional standards. Research on DNR orders has identified barriers to the goal of patient involvement in these life and death discussions. The initial data on surrogate decision making also points to the need for a reexamination of the moral basis for substituted judgment, the moral authority of proxy decision making and the second-order status of the best interests standard. These examples of empirical research suggest that an interplay between empirical research, ethical analysis and policy development may represent a new form of interdisciplinary scholarship to improve clinical medicine.
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