This paper explores the relevance of the debate about ethical expertise for the practice of clinical ethics. We present definitions, explain three theories of ethical expertise, and identify arguments that have been brought up to either support the concept of ethical expertise or call it into question. Finally, we discuss four theses: the debate is relevant for the practice of clinical ethics in that it (1) improves and specifies clinical ethicists' perception of their expertise; (2) contributes to improving the perception (...) of moral competence of non-ethicists; (3) gives insight into complementary styles of argumentation of ethicists and non-ethicists; and (4) contributes to the awareness of the problem of profession-building of (clinical) ethicists. (shrink)
Telling the truth is one of the most respected virtues in medical history and one of the most emphasized in the code of medical ethics. Health care providers are frequently confronted with the dilemma as to whether or not to tell the truth. This dilemma deepens when both choices are critically vicious: The choice is no longer between “right and right” or “right and wrong,” it is between “wrong and wrong.” In the case presented and discussed in this paper, a (...) research team in Saudi Arabia unintentionally uncovered information regarding misattributed paternity. In such a situation and in the context of a tribal cultural system, what should the team do with this information? This case analysis demonstrates the joint application of ethical resources originating from within and outside the Saudi Arabian context. The article analyses the case based on the moral problems involved, relevant medical application, and the impact of such information in the Saudi tribal and Islamic domains. The most pertinent relevant values and secular debates on similar matters are discussed. Finally, the article aims to provide an Islamic dimension of family, fatherhood, and adultery. (shrink)
This paper explores the role of ‘community’ in the context of global bioethics. With the present globalization of bioethics, new and interesting references are made to this concept. Some are familiar, for example, community consent. This article argues that the principle of informed consent is too individual-oriented and that in other cultures, consent can be community-based. Other references to ‘community’ are related to the novel principle of benefit sharing in the context of bioprospecting. The application of this principle necessarily requires (...) the identification and construction of communities. On the global level there are also new uses of the concept of community as ‘global community.’ Three uses are distinguished: (1) a diachronic use, including past, present, and future generations, (2) a synchronic ecological use, including nonhuman species, and (3) a synchronic planetary use, including all human beings worldwide. Although there is a tension between the communitarian perspective and the idea of global community, this article argues that the third use can broaden communitarianism. The current development towards cosmopolitanism is creating a new global community that represents humanity as a whole, enabling identification of world citizens and evoking a sense of global solidarity and responsibility. The emergence of global bioethics today demonstrates this development. (shrink)
Vulnerability has become a popular though controversial topic in bioethics, notably since 2000. As a result, a common body of knowledge has emerged distinguishing between different types of vulnerability, criticizing the categorization of populations as vulnerable, and questioning the practical implications. It is argued that two perspectives on vulnerability, i.e., the philosophical and political, pose challenges to contemporary bioethics discourse: they re-examine the significance of human agency, the primacy of the individual person, and the negativity of vulnerability. As a phenomenon (...) of globalization, vulnerability can only be properly addressed in a global bioethics that takes the social dimension of human existence seriously. (shrink)
The main object of criticism of present-day medical ethics is the standard view of the relationship between theory and practice. Medical ethics is more than the application of moral theories and principles, and health care is more than the domain of application of moral theories. Moral theories and principles are necessarily abstract, and therefore fail to take account of the sometimes idiosyncratic reality of clinical work and the actual experiences of practitioners. Suggestions to remedy the illnesses of contemporary medical ethics (...) focus on re-establishing the connection between the internal and external morality of medicine. This article discusses the question how to develop a theoretical perspective on medical ethical issues that connects philosophical reflection with the everyday realities of medical practice. Four steps in a comprehensive approach of medical ethics research are distinguished: (1) examine health care contexts in order to obtain a better understanding of the internal morality of these practices; this requires empirical research; (2) analyze and interpret the external morality governing health care practices; sociological study of prevalent values, norms, and attitudes concerning medical-ethical issues is required; (3) creation of new theoretical perspectives on health care practices; Jensen's theory of healthcare practices will be useful here; (4) develop a new conception of bioethics that illuminates and clarifies the complex interaction between the internal and external morality of health care practices. Hermeneutical ethics can be helpful for integrating the experiences disclosed in the empirical ethical studies, as well as utilizing the insights gained from describing the value-contexts of health care practices. For a critical and normative perspective, hermeneutical ethics has to examine and explain the moral experiences uncovered, in order to understand what they tell us. (shrink)
This reply to Giles Scofield's critique of the authors' article in the June 2008 issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal highlights two main topics. First, contrary to what Scofield suggests, using the terms "ethics" and "morality" interchangeably constitutes an oversimplification that blurs important distinctions. Second, in a representative democracy, ethical expertise and consultation need not generate a "tragic choice" of the kind Scofield has in mind.
The concept of âgeneticizationâ has been introduced in the scholarly literature to describe the various interlocking and imperceptible mechanisms of interaction between medicine, genetics, society and culture. It is argued that Western culture currently is deeply involved in a process of geneticization. This process implies a redefinition of individuals in terms of DNA codes, a new language to describe and interpret human life and behavior in a genomic vocabulary of codes, blueprints, traits, dispositions, genetic mapping, and a gentechnological approach to (...) disease, health and the body. This article analyses the thesis of âgeneticizationâ. Explaining the implications of the thesis, and discussing the critical refutations, it is argued that âgeneticizationâ primarily is a heuristic tool that can help to re-focus the moral debate on the implications of new genetic knowledge towards interpersonal relations, the power of medicine, the cultural context and social constraints, rather than emphasizing issues as personal autonomy and individual rights. (shrink)
UNESCO is an intergovernmental organization with 193 Member States. It is concerned with a broad range of issues regarding education, science and culture. It is the only UN organisation with a mandate in science. Since 1993 it is addressing ethics of science and technology, with special emphasis on bioethics. One major objective of the ethics programme is the development of international normative standards. This is particularly important since many Member States only have a limited infrastructure in bioethics, lacking expertise, educational (...) programs, bioethics committees and legal frameworks. UNESCO has recently adopted the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The focus of current activities is now on implementation of this Declaration. Three activities are discussed that aim at improving and reinforcing the ethics infrastructure in relation to science and technology: the Global Ethics Observatory, the Ethics Education Programme and the Assisting Bioethics Committees project. (shrink)
The Dutch system of obstetric care is often recommended for midwife-attended births, the high number of home deliveries, and the low rate of intervention during pregnancy and labour. In this contribution, the question is addressed whether processes of medicalization can be demonstrated in the Dutch midwife practice. Medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth is often criticized because it creates dependency on the medical system and infringement of the autonomy of pregnant women. It is concluded that medicalization is present in the practice (...) of Dutch independent midwives, however it is less clear and outspoken than in hospital policies. (shrink)
Geneticization is a broad term referring to several related processes such as a spreading tendency to use a genetic model of disease explanation, a growing influence of genetics in medical practice, and the slow changing of individual and societal attitudes towards reproduction, prevention and control of disease. These processes can be demonstrated in medical literature on preventive genetic screening and counselling programs for β-thalassaemia in Cyprus, the United Kingdom and Canada. The preventive possibilities of the new genetic and diagnostic technologies (...) have been quickly understood and advocated by health professionals, and their educational strategies have created a web of social control, in marked contrast to the alleged voluntary decision-making process and free choice. Genetic diagnostic technologies have led to considerable changes in control and management of β-thalassaemia, and have generated a number of unresolved incongruities. (shrink)
Analysis and comparison of genetic screening programs shows that the extent of development of programs varies widely across Europe. Regional variations are due not only to genetic disease patterns but also reflect the novelty of genetic services. In most countries, the focus for genetic screening programs has been pregnant women and newborn children. Newborn children are screened only for disorders which are treatable. Prenatal screening when provided is for conditions for which termination may be offered. The only population screening programs (...) for adults are those for thalassaemia carrier status in Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Social responses to genetic screening range from acceptance to hostility. There is a fundamental tension between individual and communi ty in the debates in various European countries about implementation of screening programs. Opposition to genetic screening is frequently expressed in terms of arguments about "eugenics" with insufficient regard to the meaning of the term and its implications. Only a few countries have introduced explicit legislation on genetic screening. Legislation to address discrimination may provide more safeguards than legislation protecting genetic information itself. (shrink)
Solidarity belongs to the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and is part of the ethical repertoire of European moral traditions and European healthcare systems. This paper discusses how leaders of Catholic healthcare organizations (HCOs) can understand their institutional moral responsibility with regard to the preservation of solidarity. In dealing with this question, we make use of Taylor's philosophy of modern culture. We first argue that, just as all HCOs, Catholic ones also can embody and strengthen solidarity by just (...) doing their quintessential job, that is, to care for people with ill health. Second, we focus on the Catholic identity of these organizations and argue that this characteristic can empower a radical commitment to solidarity. Finally, we argue that CST provides a critical ethical framework for approaching solidarity from the perspective of the common good. (shrink)
This paper explores usage of the concept ofabnormality in medical genetics and proposesdirectives for more careful usage of this concept.The conceptual difficulties are first explored, thena model is developed to assess actual usage, followedby analysis of a sample of genetic textbooks andgenetics literature. It appears that fact andvaluation are often intermingled, that referencestandards used to define 'genetic abnormalities' areoften not clear and that the concept of abnormality isoften used independent of the degree of certainty withwhich the altered genetype develops into (...) a (seriously)harmful phenotype. On the basis of these findings itis argued that more restraint and more careful use ofthe concept of genetic abnormality of medical geneticsis appropriate as well as more agreement on the use ofreference standards. (shrink)
Health technology assessment (HTA) is often biased in the sense that it neglects relevant perspectives on the technology in question. To incorporate different perspectives in HTA, we should pursue agreement about what are relevant, plausible, and feasible research questions; interactive technology assessment (iTA) might be suitable for this goal. In this way a kind of procedural ethics is established. Currently, ethics too often is focussed on the application of general principles, which leaves a lot of confusion as to what really (...) is the matter in specific cases; in an iTA clashes of values should not be approached by use of such ethics. Instead, casuistry, as a tool used within the framework of iTA, should help to articulate and clarify what is the matter, as to make room for explication and consensus building. (shrink)
Clarifying and analysing moral problems arising in the practice of palliative care was the objective of participatory observations in five palliative care settings. The results of these observations will be described in this contribution. The moral problems palliative caregivers have to deal with in their daily routines will be explained by comparison with the findings of a previously performed literature study. The specific differences in the manifestation of moral problems in the different palliative care settings will be highlighted as well.
Professional autonomy, as the symbol of the traditional freedom ofdecision-making of medical professionals is criticized. This essayexamines the critique. It analyses the underlying assumption that theautonomy of health professionals is incompatible with the need fororganisation and management in order to control rising health carecosts. It is argued that the concept of professional autonomy should beredefined, not through restricting the decision-making freedom ofindividual health professionals, but through expanding the concept intothe sphere of management, so that managers will take responsibility forpatient care.
From 1991 to 1994 the Dutch Health Insurance Council financed research on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). This is a technique for providing cardiopulmonary bypass to patients with pulmonary and/or cardiac failure. Most often, these patients are premature neonates. During ECMO, blood is drained from the right atrium, pumped along a membrane where gas exchange takes place, and then redirected to the aorta. To prevent blood clotting, heparin is added. However, with the heparin added, the risk of hemorrhage is considerably increased. (...) Therefore, both the chance of surviving and the chance of severe disability are higher with ECMO than with conventional treatment (i.e., ventilator support). (shrink)
This paper discusses the issue of whether we have responsibilities to future generations with respect to genetic screening, including for purposes of selective abortion or discard. Future generations have been discussed at length among scholars. The concept of âGuardianfor Future Generationsâ is tackled and its main criticisms discussed. Whilst germ-line cures, it is argued, can only affect family trees, genetic screening and testing can have wider implications. If asking how this may affect future generations is a legitimate question and since (...) we indeed make retrospective moral judgements, it would be wise to consider that future generations will make the same retrospective judgements on us. Moreover such technologies affect present embryos to which we indeed can be considered to have an obligation. (shrink)