Bioethical research has tended to focus on theoretical discussion of the principles on which the analysis of ethical issues in biomedicine should be based. But this discussion often seems remote from biomedical practice where researchers and physicians confront ethical problems. On the other hand, published empirical research on the ethical reasoning of health care professionals offer only descriptions of how physicians and nurses actually reason ethically. The question remains whether these descriptions have any normative implications for nurses and physicians? In this article, we illustrate an approach that integrates empirical research into the formulation of normative ethical principles using the moral-philosophical method of Wide Reflective Equilibrium (WRE). The research method discussed in this article was developed in connection with the project ‘Bioethics in Theory and Practice’. The purpose of this project is to investigate ethical reasoning in biomedical practice in Denmark empirically. In this article, we take the research method as our point of departure, but we exclusively discuss the theoretical framework of the method, not its empirical results. We argue that the descriptive phenomenological hermeneutical method developed by Lindseth and Norberg (2004) and Pedersen (1999) can be combined with the theory of WRE to arrive at a decision procedure and thus a foundation for the formulation of normative ethical principles. This could provide health care professionals and biomedical researchers with normative principles about how to analyse, reason and act in ethically difficult situations in their practice. We also show how to use existing bioethical principles as inspiration for interpreting the empirical findings of qualitative studies. This may help researchers design their own empirical studies in the field of ethics
Keywords biomedicine  empirical ethics  normative bioethical principles  phenomenological hermeneutical method  theory of Wide Reflective Equilibrium
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2007
DOI 10.1007/s11019-006-9011-9
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,039
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Truth and Method.H. G. Gadamer - 1975 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (4):487-490.
Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.C. L. Ten - 2003 - Mind 112 (447):563-566.
Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics.John Rawls - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (2):177-197.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 22 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Role of Empirical Research in Bioethics.Alexander A. Kon - 2009 - American Journal of Bioethics 9 (6-7):59-65.
Empirical Research on Research Ethics.Joan E. Sieber - 2004 - Ethics and Behavior 14 (4):397 – 412.
Empirical Ethics in Psychiatry.Guy Widdershoven (ed.) - 2008 - Oxford University Press.


Added to PP index

Total views
33 ( #345,440 of 2,505,224 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,705 of 2,505,224 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes