Clinical Ethics and the Road Less Taken: Mapping the Future by Tracking the Past

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 32 (2):218-225 (2004)


Clinical ethics, like the broader field of bioethics from which it emerged, is at a critical crossroads in its development, with conflicting paths ahead. It can either claim its distinctive place in the clinical arena, insisting unapologetically on certain minimal standards of professional training, practice and competence, addressing head on debates about various models of and methodological approaches to consultation, and establishing a shared vision of the purpose and meaning of the enterprise of clinical ethics itself. Or, it can devolve into a hobby that untrained, albeit interested, and generally well intentioned individuals can dabble in for fun or even profit, as they see fit, and without regard to the deep history and rich disciplinary roots of the field, the serious debates in the academic literature of bioethics, the foundational case histories and legal theories, or even any sense of professional accountability.

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Laurie Zoloth
Northwestern University

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