Values-Based Practice: A Theory-Practice Dynamic for Navigating Values and Difference in Health Care

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 94:219-244 (2023)
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This chapter introduces values-based practice as a resource for working with individually diverse values in health and social care, and describes its origins in an on-going development through the resources of philosophy. The chapter is in two main sections. Section I, Values-Based Practice, builds on two brief interactive exercises to introduce and explain the key features of values-based practice. As a relatively recent addition to the range of resources for working with values in health and social care, values-based practice is distinctive in focussing on the diversity of values comprising individual lived experience. Like evidence-based practice, values-based practice is a process-driven rather than an outcome-driven methodology. That is to say, rather than offering prescribed answers, both approaches offer processes that support decision-makers in coming to answers for themselves based on the particular circumstances presented by the situation in question. Although entirely complementary, the processes involved are of course different. Where evidence-based practice relies on meta-analyses of the results of high-quality clinical trials to inform a consensual model of decision-making, values-based practice builds on learnable clinical skills and other process elements to inform a dissensual model of decision-making rather than seeking to overcome value-conflicts in reaching consensus. Working within a premise of mutual respect for differences of values, and guided by three key principles linking values and evidence, values-based practice, as described in the chapter, supports dissensual decision-making, balanced according to the circumstances presented by the decision in question, within frameworks of locally-set frameworks of shared values. Section II, The Theory-Practice Dynamic, then outlines the theory-practice dynamic on which values-based practice is based. The origins of values-based practice in mid-twentieth century ordinary language philosophy of the Oxford School are outlined. As the chapter illustrates, although a limited area of analytic philosophy, many aspects of values-based practice are informed by ordinary language philosophy, ranging from its premise, through the training exercises and other process elements described in Section I, to its role in hybrid empirical studies supporting its model of service delivery. The development of values-based practice, furthermore, as section II goes on to describe, is ongoing, with key initiatives drawing not only on both analytic and Continental traditions of European philosophy, but also on non-European philosophies such as those of Africa and the Caribbean.



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Bill (K. W. M. ) Fulford
University of Oxford

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