Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 12 (2) (1991)
Considerable debate has occurred about the proper role of philosophers when offering ethics consultations. Some argue that only physicians or clinical experienced personnel should offer ethics consultations in the clinical setting. Others argue still further that philosophers are ill-equipped to offer such advice, since to do so rests on no social warrant, and violates the abstract and neutral nature of the discipline itself.I argue that philosophers not only can offer such consultations but ought to. To be a bystander when one's discipline does offer insights and methods of value discernment is pusillanimous. But this position requires a view of clinical medical ethics as one that arises out of the clinical practice of medicine, and not just from an application of general ethical principles to the practice of medicine. I conclude with some skills that trained philosophers can bring to the consultation service, and note that all consultations are in the form of recommendations that the patient, family, and physician are still free to accept or reject. Philosophers in the clinical setting do not make decisions.
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