The papers in the 2010 “Clinical Ethics” number of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy explore issues along La Frontera, the borders and boundaries of clinical ethics. The first three papers in this “Clinical Ethics” number of the Journal explore borders and boundaries drawn within clinical ethics, concerning the moral standing of complementary and alternative medicine, palliative sedation, and induced abortion and feticide. The fourth and fifth papers explore the borders and boundaries between research ethics and clinical ethics.
We offer a critique of one prominent understanding of the principle of respect for autonomy and of analyses of medical paternalism based on that understanding. Our main critique is that understanding respect for autonomy as respect for freedom from interference is mistaken because it is overly influenced by four-alarm cases, because it fails to appreciate the full dimensions of legal self-determination (one of its main sources), because it conflates the research and therapeutic settings, and because it fails to appreciate themes (...) of authority and power that have historically shaped the principle of respect for freedom from interference. We argue that respect for autonomy involves more than just freedom from interference and, on this basis, offer a critique of prevailing accounts of medical paternalism. (shrink)
Planned home birth has been considered by some to be consistent with professional responsibility in patient care. This article critically assesses the ethical and scientific justification for this view and shows it to be unjustified. We critically assess recent statements by professional associations of obstetricians, one that sanctions and one that endorses planned home birth. We base our critical appraisal on the professional responsibility model of obstetric ethics, which is based on the ethical concept of medicine from the Scottish and (...) English Enlightenments of the 18th century. Our critical assessment supports the following conclusions. Because of its significantly increased, preventable perinatal risks, planned home birth in the United States is not clinically or ethically benign. Attending planned home birth, no matter one’s training or experience, is not acting in a professional capacity, because this role preventably results in clinically unnecessary and therefore clinically unacceptable perinatal risk. It is therefore not consistent with the ethical concept of medicine as a profession for any attendant to planned home birth to represent himself or herself as a “professional.” Obstetric healthcare associations should neither sanction nor endorse planned home birth. Instead, these associations should recommend against planned home birth. Obstetric healthcare professionals should respond to expressions of interest in planned home birth by pregnant women by informing them that it incurs significantly increased, preventable perinatal risks, by recommending strongly against planned home birth, and by recommending strongly for planned hospital birth. Obstetric healthcare professionals should routinely provide excellent obstetric care to all women transferred to the hospital from a planned home birth. The professional responsibility model of obstetric ethics requires obstetricians to address and remedy legitimate dissatisfaction with some hospital settings and address patients’ concerns about excessive interventions. Creating a sustained culture of comprehensive safety, which cannot be achieved in planned home birth, informed by compassionate and respectful treatment of pregnant women, should be a primary focus of professional obstetric responsibility. (shrink)
It is well-recognized that uncertainty is an endemic feature and limitation of clinical judgment and practice that cannot be eliminated in many cases. Among the tasks of clinical ethics is the responsible management of uncertainties, first articulated in E. Haavi Morreim’s very nice concept of the "moral management of medical uncertainty." The papers in the 2012 Clinical Ethics issue of the Journal provide philosophically innovative and clinically applicable accounts of the varieties of uncertainty in clinical medicine and therefore in clinical (...) ethics: epistemic uncertainty, metaphysical uncertainty, and relational uncertainty. (shrink)
This paper introduces the 2011 number of the Journal on Clinical Ethics. Philosophical critical appraisal is essential for the success of philosophical analysis and argument in clinical ethics. To clear away conceptual underbrush, papers in this Clinical Ethics number of the Journal address genetic engineering, conscience-based objections to forms of health care, placebos, and preventing exploitation of patients to be recruited to become research subjects.
The morally responsible practice of clinical medicine depends on many factors, the integrity of clinical judgment chief among them. Responsible clinical judgment requires that it be deliberative. The disciplines of the humanities, all of which contribute to clinical ethics—as the papers that follow illustrate—teach that deliberative reasoning includes critical self-awareness and self-scrutiny. Critical appraisal proves essential to achieving both. The papers in the 2013 Clinical Ethics number of the Journal provide distinctive critical appraisals of clinical judgment: concepts of race; narrative; (...) stewardship; and the Rule of Rescue. By becoming commonplace, such critical appraisals of clinical judgment become essential to clinical ethics. (shrink)
The five papers in the 2008 “Clinical Ethics” number of the journal address the conceptual and empirical foundations of clinical ethics. Three articles take up the concept of professionalism in medicine, exploring its possibilities and implications. The fourth article provides a distinctive, phenomenological account of the “placebo effect,” a vexing topic of surprising durability in the clinical setting. The final article, a systematic review of the qualitative literature on bedside rationing of resources, creates an empirical foundation for philosophical analysis and (...) argument of a distinctive kind. (shrink)
Central concepts and consensus views in clinical ethics are marked by instability. The papers in this number of the Journal take up two such central concepts, quality of life and moral status, and two such consensus views, that germ-line gene transfer should not be undertaken for the purposes of enhancement of human traits and that the ethical obligation of physicians to treat HIV infected patients rests on consent of the physician. One outcome of these philosophical investigations is that these two (...) concepts and consensus views are less stable than one might have thought. I explore the possibility of generalizing this outcome in a reflection on clinical ethics as the management of instability and incompleteness, including the instability and incompleteness of clinical ethics itself. In the course of this reflection I liken clinical ethics to abstract expressionism in mid-twentieth century Western art. (shrink)