The importance of ethical expertise

Journal of Medical Ethics 44 (12):799-800 (2018)
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Abstract

The kind of expertise someone who specialises in ethics has, or indeed whether it makes sense to talk of moral expertise, is keenly debated and is a far from settled issue. It has been of interest to moral philosophers, partly because of the light it might shine on the nature of morality.1 2 It has also been debated within medical ethics, with some arguing against the idea that expertise in moral philosophy translates into ethical expertise and others arguing that skills in ethical justification can be viewed as ethical expertise.3 4 This issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics includes a number of papers that demonstrate the importance of ethical expertise and some of the distinctive elements of it. Public involvement in research is seen in a number of countries as something valuable and in some, such as Australia, it can be a criterion for research grants. The UK National Standards for Public Involvement in Research are discussed in this issue of JME and McCoy et al provide a good illustration of why ethical expertise is important for framing public policy.5 The appeal of stakeholders having some say into research projects, particularly when they are funded via taxation is easy to understand, so who would not see public involvement as a good thing? However, McCoy et al claim that while there is a substantial and growing literature on public involvement in research that tends to emphasise the importance of public involvement, it doesn’t explain how or what this looks like when …

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