An organizational perspective on ethics as a form of regulation

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 12 (4):385-392 (2009)
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Abstract

In this paper we propose a theoretical framework for analysing the history and function of ethics as a form of regulation. Ethics in the form of codes, rules and declarations, constitutes regulatory policies, and we wish to suggest analysing such policies from an organizational perspective. In many instances ethics policies are reactions to particular events involving harm of patients or research participants. As such they seem to come forward as solutions to specific problems. However, not all such events that instigate the making of new policies, and policies often have other effects and are used for other purposes than what we might expect from the events preceding them: when ethics takes on the form of policy making, the relationship between problems and solutions is more complex. We suggest that an organizational perspective on ethics codes, rules and declarations can deliver a relevant framework for future studies of the implications of wanting to address ethical problems through policy making

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