There is a curious asymmetry in cases where the use of religious language involves a breakdown in communication and leads to a seemingly intractable dispute. Why does the use of religious language in such cases almost always arise on the side of patients and their families, rather than on the side of clinicians or others who work in healthcare settings? I suggest that the intractable disputes arise when patients and their families use religious language to frame their problem and the (...) possibilities of solution. Unlike clinicians, they are not bilingual and thus lack the capacity to understand and negotiate differences in terms that are responsive to those who work in healthcare settings. After considering a representative case, I explore whether an ethics consultant or chaplain can function as a translator and suggest that, at best, such efforts at mediation depend on contingent aspects of a case and will only be partially successful. To appreciate limits on the role for bilingual translators, I consider a futility dispute where a parent using religious language demands that everything be done for a permanently unconscious child. I challenge the traditional interpretation that says the parent values “mere duration of biological life irrespective of quality.” From a religious perspective, human life is never “merely biological.” This effort to slot the dispute into standard philosophical schemas misses what is crucial in the dispute. I suggest that a better interpretation views the dispute at a meta-level as one about whether withholding and withdrawing care is morally distinguishable from killing. Curiously, this interpretation makes the advocate of futile care into an ally of those “quality of life” advocates who also challenge this distinction. The crux of their dispute now rests on the normative ethics of killing. While I think my interpretation comes much closer to the views of many who demand ‘futile care,’ I suggest that it still falls short because of the way it reconstructs the religious concerns in nonreligious terms. I close by considering an analogy between the language of suffering and the language of faith, suggesting that both require a much richer understanding of the narratives that orient the lives of patients and their families. (shrink)
The traditional contrast between naturalist and normativist disease concepts fails to capture the most salient features of the health concepts debate. By using health concepts as a window on background notions of medical science and ethics, I show how Christopher Boorse (an influential naturalist) and Lennart Nordenfelt (an influential normativist) actually share deep assumptions about the character of medicine. Their disease concepts attempt, in different ways, to shore up the same medical model. For both, health concepts function like demarcation criteria (...) in the philosophy of science: they mark off the jurisdiction of medical science, and protect it from an inappropriate intrusion of socioeconomic factors, which threaten the integrity of modern medicine. These views are challenged by new developments in healthcare such as managed care and total quality review. To frame the health concepts debate in a way that better captures the issues integral to these new developments, I advance a new way of reading the distinction between weak and strong normativists. Strong normativists are skeptical of the demarcation project, think facts and values cannot be disentangled, and hold that socioeconomic conditions unavoidably influence how pathology is understood. The new health concepts debate should be framed as one between weak and strong normativists, and it concerns how we should respond to the current developments in health care. (shrink)
Nanomedicine is yielding new and improved treatments and diagnostics for a range of diseases and disorders. Nanomedicine applications incorporate materials and components with nanoscale dimensions where novel physiochemical properties emerge as a result of size-dependent phenomena and high surface-to-mass ratio. Nanotherapeutics and in vivo nanodiagnostics are a subset of nanomedicine products that enter the human body. These include drugs, biological products, implantable medical devices, and combination products that are designed to function in the body in ways unachievable at larger scales. (...) Nanotherapeutics andin vivonanodiagnostics incorporate materials that are engineered at the nanoscale to express novel properties that are medicinally useful. These nanomedicine applications can also contain nanomaterials that are biologically active, producing interactions that depend on biological triggers. Examples include nanoscale formulations of insoluble drugs to improve bioavailability and pharmacokinetics, drugs encapsulated in hollow nanoparticles with the ability to target and cross cellular and tissue membranes and to release their payload at a specific time or location, imaging agents that demonstrate novel optical properties to aid in locating micrometastases, and antimicrobial and drug-eluting components or coatings of implantable medical devices such as stents. (shrink)
Germund Hesslow has argued that concepts of health and disease serve no important scientific, clinical, or ethical function. However, this conclusion depends upon the particular concept of disease he espouses; namely, on Boorse's functional notion. The fact/value split embodied in the functional notion of disease leads to a sharp split between the science of medicine and bioethics, making the philosophy of medicine irrelevant for both. By placing this disease concept in the broader context of medical history, I shall show that (...) it does capture an essential part of modern medical ideology. However, it is also a self-contradictory notion. By making explicit the value desiderata of medical nosologies, a reconfiguration of the relation between medicine, bioethics, and the philosophy of medicine is initiated. This, in turn, will involve a recovery of the caring dimensions of medicine, and thus a more humane practice. (shrink)
The Hyde Amendment and Roman Catholic attempts to put restrictions on Title X funding have been criticized for being intolerant. However, such criticism fails to appreciate that there are two competing notions of tolerance, one focusing on the limits of state force and accepting pluralism as unavoidable, and the other focusing on the limits of knowledge and advancing pluralism as a good. These two types of tolerance, illustrated in the writings of John Locke and J.S. Mill, each involve an intolerance. (...) In a pluralistic context f where the free exercise of religion is respected, John Locke's account of tolerance is preferable. However, it (in a reconstructed form) leads to a minimal state. Positive entitlements to benefits like artificial contraception or nontherapeutic abortions can legitimately be resisted, because an intolerance has already been shown with respect to those that consider the benefit immoral, since their resources have been coop ted by taxation to advance an end that is contrary to their own. There is a sliding scale from tolerance (viewed as forbearance) to the affirmation of communal integrity, and this scale maps on to the continuum from negative to positive rights. Keywords: church and state, Hyde Amendment, Locke, Mill, religious liberty, Title X funding, toleration CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Many physicians assert that new cost-control mechanisms inappropriately interfere with clinical decision-making. They claim that high costs arise from poorly practiced medicine, and argue that effective utilization of resources is best promoted by advancing the scientific and ethical ideals of medicine. However, the claim is not warranted by empirical evidence. In this essay, I show how it rests upon aesthetic considerations associated with diagnostic elegance. I first consider scientific rationality generally. After a review of analytical empiricist and socio-historical approaches in (...) the philosophy of science, a form of Kant's aesthetic is used to explain how scientific discovery and justification are linked, and to show how meta-theoretical considerations associated with the goals and method of science work together with exemplars of practice. This analysis enables us to understand how the ideals of medicine as a science guide the initial patient history and physical exam in such a way that a parsimonious use of tests is indicated. Aesthetic considerations unite the basic scientific and ethical commitments of the modern medical paradigm and are central for rightly understanding clinical judgment. (shrink)
The arguments against managed care can be divided into two general clusters. One cluster concerns the way managed care undermines the ethical ideals of medical professionalism. Since those ideals largely focus on the physician-patient relation, the first cluster comes under the rubric of micro-ethics; namely, the ethics of individual-individual relations. The second cluster of criticisms focuses on macro-ethical issues, primarily on issues of justice and policy. By reviewing these arguments, it becomes clear that managed care does not easily fit within (...) traditional modes of ethical analysis. It poses a radical challenge to current medical and socio-political norms, and even resists the distinction between micro- and macro-ethical domains, a distinction that reflects the private/public distinction. Managed care organizations call for a third way, an inter-ethic for middle level organizations. The essays in this Journal provide a first step in this radical reassessment, laying the foundation for an organizational ethic that is responsive to the realities and promise of managed care. (shrink)
Conflicts of interest serve as a cipher for a radical rupture in the Flexnerian paradigm of medicine, and they can only be addressed if we recognize that health care is now practiced by institutions, not just individual physicians. By showing how "appropriate utilization of services" or "that which is medically indicated" is a function of socioeconomic factors related to institutional responsibilities, I point toward an administrative and organizational ethic as a needed component for addressing conflicts of interest. The argument is (...) developed by reviewing three important books. First, I consider Mark Rodwin's attempt to configure the economic structures of medicine so that classical fiduciary and scientific ideals can be fostered. Second, I consider E. Haavi Morreim's attempt to modify the classical ideals in order to account for new economic realities. Finally, by considering essays in a recent volume on conflicts of interest edited by Spece, Shimm, and Buchanan, I argue for a constructive dialectic between the approaches of Rodwin and Morreim. In order to properly address conflicts of interest, there must be a radical reassessment of medicine that accounts for the interrelation between scientific, ethical, and economic concerns. Until institutions come into view and professional ethics is developed to account for their role, legitimate interests and obligations of diverse parties cannot be harmonized. (shrink)
What clinicians, biomedical scientists, and other health care professionals know as individuals or as groups and how they come to know and use knowledge are central concerns of medical epistemology. Activities associated with knowledge production and use are called epistemic practices. Such practices are considered in biomedical and clinical literatures, social sciences of medicine, philosophy of science and philosophy of medicine, and also in other nonmedical literatures. A host of different kinds of knowledge claims have been identified, each with different (...) uses and logics of justification. A general framework is needed to situate these diverse contributions in medical epistemology, so we can see how they fit together. But developing such a framework turns out to be quite tricky. In this survey, three possible frameworks are considered along with the difficulties associated with each of them. The essay concludes with a fourth framework, which considers any epistemology as part of a practice that is oriented toward overcoming errors that emerge in antecedently given practices where knowledge is developed and used. As medicine indirectly advances health by directly mitigating disease, so epistemology indirectly advances knowledge by directly mitigating error. (shrink)
This book is for those interested in an extensive review of the field of bioethics. It is for philosophers who wish to understand the core conceptual issues in health care ethics, and for bioethicists who wish to better understand classical problems in philosophy that have a bearing on health care ethics. The Handbook of Bioethics: Taking Stock of the Field from a Philosophical Perspective: -presents a comprehensive survey of bioethics in one volume; -has 27 of the most prominent scholars in (...) the field take stock of the issues they helped define; -contains essays that outline areas where future research is needed; -identifies potential areas for fruitful collaboration between traditional philosophers and bioethicists; -is an ideal text for graduate or upper level undergraduate courses. (shrink)
Many believe that nanotechnology will be disruptive to our society. Presumably, this means that some people and even whole industries will be undermined by technological developments that nanoscience makes possible. This, in turn, implies that we should anticipate potential workforce disruptions, mitigate in advance social problems likely to arise, and work to fairly distribute the future benefits of nanotechnology. This general, somewhat vague sense of disruption, is very difficult to specify – what will it entail? And how can we responsibly (...) anticipate and mitigate any problems? We can't even clearly state what the problems are anticipated to be. In fact, when we move from sweeping policy statements to more concrete accounts, nanotechnology seems to bifurcate into two divergent streams: one is fairly continuous with current developments, extending extant science in a quantitative way; the other is radically new, and includes science fiction-like dreams of molecular manufacturing and assemblers, with their utopian scenarios of absolute plenty. In these cases, “disruption” takes on the valence of Huxley's brave new world. (shrink)
The ethical issues integral to embryo research and brain death are intertwined with comprehensive views of life that are not explicitly discussed in most policy debate. I consider three representative views – a naturalist, romantic, and theist – and show how these might inform the way practical ethical issues are addressed. I then consider in detail one influential argument in embryo research that attempts to bypass deep values. I show that this twinning argument is deeply flawed. It presupposes naturalist commitments (...) that are at issue in the embryo research debate, and exhibits a blindness to alternative philosophical viewpoints. By considering the work of Hans Driesch, the discoverer of the facts of embryology integral to the twinning argument, I show how the twinning facts are compatible with romantic and theistic accounts that affirm full moral status for the early embryo. While these alternative interpretations might have a tenuous status in current scientific debate, they should be respected in ethical and policy debate. (shrink)
Here we consider two ways that nanomedicine might be disruptive. First, low-end disruptions that are intrinsically unpredictable but limited in scope, and second, high end disruptions that involve broader societal issues but can be anticipated, allowing opportunity for ethical reflection.
”Merely fact-minded sciences make merely factminded people.”“ …the positivistic concept of science in our time is, historically speaking, a residual concept. It has dropped all the questions which had been considered under the now narrower, now broader concepts of metaphysics….all these ‘metaphysical’ questions, taken broadly – commonly called specifically philosophical questions – surpass the world understood as the universe of mere facts. They surpass it precisely as being questions with the idea of reason in mind. And they all claim a (...) higher dignity than questions of fact, which are subordinated to them even in the order of inquiry. Positivism, in a manner of speaking, decapitates philosophy.”Edmund HusserlIn ethical literature associated with controversies at the beginning and end of human life, there is often a two-part structure: first, basic facts about the topic are presented in a more or less descriptive format, then there is the ethics or policy. (shrink)
This essay considers implications of formal mereologies and ontologies for medical metaphysics. Edward Fried’s extensional mereological account of the human body is taken as representative of a prominent strand in analytic metaphysics that has close affinities with medical positivism. I show why such accounts fail. First, I consider how Fried attempts to make sense of the medical case of Barney Clark, the first recipient of an artificial heart, and show that his analytic metaphysical categories do not have the right kind (...) of fit with the case. A proper medical metaphysic should involve a richer two way dialogue with medicine, and it should not just “apply” formal accounts worked out in other settings. Second, I argue that any effort to account for real wholes with extensional mereological sums requires all sorts of ad hoc, supplementary mechanisms that do the real work, and the full repertoire of these mechanisms involves inconsistencies and semantic shifts. Finally, I consider an alternative strand of work on non-extensional whole/part relations that is closer to medicine and that can deepen reflection on some core problems in bioethics, for example, associated with the determination of death when an organism ceases to function as a whole. In addition to the utility such formal ontologies have for addressing traditional problems such as the determination of death, philosophers of medicine should appreciate the increasingly influential role such formal tools are playing in the development of data system ontologies. Assumptions integral to these ontologies have far reaching implications for the way future research and practice in medicine will be conducted, and much greater critical reflection is needed on the full range of issues associated with the development and use of such medical ontologies. (shrink)
In most of the philosophy of the last 150 years, theological concerns have been increasingly marginalized. This does not mean that the issues that were addressed theologically in the past are no longer addressed. Rather, the perennial concerns have been reconstructed so that they are no longer tied to a religious context. Ecclesiology has become political theory, moral theology has become ethics, and doctrines of revelation have become epistemology. Such a list could be made fairly exhaustive, although there is not (...) a one-to-one mapping of theological domains onto their secular, philosophical counterparts. (shrink)
After historically situating NBIC Convergence in the context of earlier bioethical debate on genetics, ten questions are raised in areas related to the ethics of Convergence, indicating where future research is needed.
This article outlines a few representative areas of research in nano- and neuroscience and then considers the complex continuum of entangled research practices that results. The point of this review is to give a realistic sense of the distributed, opportunistic character of this research, and to show how such emergent practices challenge conventional assumptions about how ethics and science should be advanced. It evaluates the risk profile of research related to that type as if it designated some discrete project. It (...) turns out that summary judgments dismissing any ethical novelty in nanoscience depend on implicit assumptions about the nature of ethical reflection, and these, in turn, depend on assumptions about the nature of pure and applied science. An ethic of nano/neuro convergence needs to explore how these new models might help us more appropriately to manage the complex possibility space associated with emerging research. (shrink)
In prominent funding and policy statements, a particle with at least one dimension in the 1-300 nm size range must have novel physicochemical properties to count as a “nanoparticle.” Size is thus only one factor. Novelty of a particle's properties is also essential to its “nano” classification. When particles in this size range are introduced into living systems, they often interact with their host in novel ways that require some modification of existing methods and models used by pharmaceutical scientists and (...) toxicologists for assessing their efficacy and safety. It is not clear, however, whether the novelty of the intended physicochemical properties is in any way related to the novel behavior of those particles when their toxicity is evaluated. In fact, when considering toxicity, much of the concern about nanoparticles relates to the unanticipated or poorly understood interactions. (shrink)
Unlike drugs and medical devices, for which long standing and continuously improving quality assurance/quality control infrastructures exist, many nano-based products lack well-defined standards that are useful to manufacturers and regulators. Inherent variabilities in nanoparticle sizes and shapes, their large surface-to-volume ratios, and their mesoscale interactions with subcellular structures, suggest new complexities and challenges that must be met before widespread application of nanomedicines can be expected.