Whether ethics is too important to be left to the experts or so important that it must be is an age-old question. The emergence of clinical ethicists raises it again, as a question about professionalism. What role clinical ethicists should play in healthcare decision making – teacher, mediator, or consultant – is a question that has generated considerable debate but no consensus.
The medical ethicist is a fairly recent addition to the clinical setting. The following four potential roles of the clinical ethicist are identified and discussed: consultant in difficult cases, educator of health care providers, counselor for health care providers and finally patient advocate to protect the interests of patients. While the various roles may sometimes overlap, the roles of educator and counselor are viewed as being more congruent with the education and training of medical ethicists than are the roles of (...) consultant and patient advocate. (shrink)
The past two decades have been a time of heightened interest in the moral aspects of the practice of medicine. This interest has been reflected in medical education by the establishment of medical humanities programs in both preclinical and clinical education in many medical schools. It has also been reflected in the literature with a dramatic increase in journal articles on medical ethics as well as the development of medical ethics in textbooks. A number of journals have developed that are (...) specifically devoted to medical ethics, including The Journal of Medical Ethics, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, The Journal of Medical Humanities, Theoretical Medicine, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, just to name a few. The literature includes both theoretical foundations and conceptual analyses of particular issues as well as practical advice and general suggestions for how to implement programs in medical humanities. (shrink)
Only recently have ethicists been invited into the clinical setting to offer recommendations about patient care decisions. This paper discusses this new role for ethicists from the perspective of content and process issues. Among content issues are the usual ethical dilemmas such as the aggressiveness of treatment, questions about consent, and alternative treatment options. Among process issues are those that relate to communication with the patient. The formal ethics consult is discussed, the steps taken in such a consult, and whether (...) there should be a fee charged. We conclude with an examination of the risks and benefits of formal ethics consults. (shrink)
In recent years, the theoretical work of Gilligan in women's psychological development has led to the development of the concept of moral orientation or moral voice in contrast to the concept of moral reasoning or moral judgment developed by Kohlberg. These concepts have been of particular interest in gender studies, especially as applied to adolescence. These concepts of moral orientation and moral reasoning are being increasingly employed in healthcare ethics studies in a wide variety of settings. The recent work has (...) included studies of physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, social workers, teachers of medical ethics, and hospital ethics committees. However, the study of moral development in healthcare providers has been hampered because collecting the necessary data from healthcare workers has been labor intensive and extremely time consuming. More efficient methods are needed. (shrink)
The Norman Rockwell image of the American physician who fixed the broken arm of a child, treated the father for hypertension, and brought an unborn child into this world is now almost nonexistent. Since the time of the Rockwell portrait, a highly technical medical industry has evolved. Now two-thirds of physicians are board certified in subspecialties, and patients visit an average of 3–4 different physicians per year. Today's physicians see themselves less as “benevolent and wise counselors overseeing the patient's welfare (...) and more as objective scientists applying the latest technical methods to bring about the desired end.” The intimate patient-physician relationship that was once the norm in our society is rapidly disappearing. (shrink)
High moral standards and adherence to a moral code have long been strong tenets of the profession of medicine, even though there have been occasional lapses that have led to renewed calls for a revitalization of moral integrity in medicine. Certainly, a moral component has generally been held to be an important aspect of the concept of a physician.
In the wake of a pilot study that indicated that the experience of medical education appears to Inhibit moral development In medical students, increased attention needs to be given to the structure of medical education and the Influence it has on medical students. Interest in ethics and moral reasoning has become widespread in many aspects of professional and public life. Society has exhibited great interest in the ethical issues confronting physicians today. Considerable effort has been undertaken to train medical students, (...) interns, and residents In how to reason through medical-ethical dilemmas. Media attention has focused on Issues such as abortion, euthanasia, care of severely handicapped infants, organ transplantation, and so forth, producing heated debates in both the professional and lay literature over the morality of the various positions. The curriculum of medical education has paralleled and reflected this general Interest in medical ethics. Most medical schools now offer, and frequently require, course work in ethics. However, further research Is needed to better characterize and understand the relationship of medical education to moral development. (shrink)
This study investigates the three major educational philosophies behind the medical humanities programs in the United States. It summarizes the characteristics of the Cultural Transmission Approach, the Affective Developmental Approach, and the Cognitive Developmental Approach. A questionnaire was sent to 415 teachers of medical humanities asking for their perceptions of the amount of time and effort devoted by their programs to these three philosophical approaches. The 234 responses constituted a 54.6% return. The approximately 80:20 gender ratio of males to females (...) and other demographic data on age and educational background were consistent with other studies of the field of medical humanities.Reflections on the results in Table II indicate that some changes need to take place in the teaching of the medical humanities if the perceived ideal is to be achieved. In order for the current teachers of the medical humanities to think that the appropriate philosophies behind the teaching of the medical humanities are being implemented as they should be, much less time and effort need to be devoted to the Cultural Transmission Approach. With no other published reports on the educational philosophies behind the medical humanities programs, this study created a new knowledge base about this relatively young and rapidly emerging field. (shrink)
On May 11th a round table discussion was held on the subject "The Interactions of Science and Art under the Conditions of the Revolution in Science and Technology ," organized by the editorial boards of the journals Voprosy filosofii and Voprosy literatury.
In contrast to theoretical discussions about potential professional liability of clinical ethicists, this report gives the results of empirical data gathered in a national survey of clinical medical ethicists. The report assesses the types of activities of clinical ethicists, the extent and types of their professional liability coverage, and the influence that concerns about legal liability has on how they function as clinical ethicists. In addition demographic data on age, sex, educational background, etc. are reported. The results show that while (...) nearly one third (28.9%) of the ethicists regularly make recommendations about patient care, only 10.8% of them regularly make entries in the medical record; only approximately half (53.0%) of them are covered by professional liability (malpractice) insurance; and the vast majority (84.3%) of them say that concerns about legal liability do not influence the way they function as clinical ethicists. (shrink)
After noting why the issue of the use of animals in medical education and research needs to be addressed, this article briefly reviews the historical positions on the role of animals in society and describes in more detail the current positions in the wide spectrum of positions regarding the role of animals in society. The spectrum ranges from the extremes of the animal exploitation position to the animal liberation position with several more moderate positions in between these two extremes. Then (...) the philosophical issue of the moral agency of animals is discussed in terms of an explication of the concept of rights and the concept of personhood. Further research is suggested concerning institutional policies regarding medical students who refuse to do physiology dog labs or other assignments which involve the suffering and/or death of animals. (shrink)
Following a brief consideration of two contrasting purposes for teaching the medical humanities, a description is given of a film discussion elective course. In contrast to the usual teaching of medical ethics which is primarily a cognitive activity emphasizing the development of a code of principles such as justice, autonomy, and beneficence, the film discussion elective was primarily an affective activity emphasizing the development of an ethical ideal of caring, relatedness, and sensitivity to others. The pass/fail elective, offered for one (...) credit each quarter for two quarters, met once a week for one hour for twenty-four weeks. Each week a film was shown followed by a group discussion. A wide variety of social issues were covered. The objective of the course was to increase the ethical sensitivity of the medical students through promotion of introspection and reflection on social issues. A brief discussion is given of the importance and appropriateness of using film to promote the affective focus of medicine on the relief of suffering. Examples are given of how the course achieved its objective. A detailed description of the resource materials is provided. (shrink)
The most important distinction in value theory is the subjective-objective distinction which determines the epistemological status of value judgments about medical intervention. Ethical decisions in medical intervention presuppose one of three structures of justification — namely, an inductive approach, a deductive approach which can be either consequentialist or non-consequentialist, and a uniquely ethical approach. Inductivism and deductivism have been discussed extensively in the literature and are only briefly described here. The uniquely ethical approach which presupposes value objectivism is analyzed in (...) detail. This method involves a purely ethical inference which moves from facts to values directly with an emphasis on reason which involves a non-logical justification (as opposed to illogical). It involves the use of natural practical arguments which have an imperative conclusion but no imperative premise and exhibit a value-requiredness between two states of affairs. (shrink)
A study of physicians and medical students was conducted to determine the various philosophical positions they hold with respect to ethical decision-making in medicine and their epistemological presuppositions in relationship to the subjective-objective controversy in value theory. The study revealed that most physicians and medical students tend to be objectivists in value theory, i.e., believe that value judgements are knowledge claims capable of being true or false and are expressions of moral requirements and normative imperatives emanating from an external value (...) structure or moral order in the world, but that most physicians and medical students are inconsistent in the philosophical foundations of their medical ethical decision-making, i.e., in decision-making regarding values they tend to hold beliefs which are incompatible with other beliefs they hold about values. The study also revealed that most physicians and medical students think more emphasis should be placed upon medical ethics in medical education. (shrink)
This study investigated gender related moral reasoning in student essays containing arguments on moral issues. Undergraduate students in a medical ethics course viewed two films on morally controversial issues. The students wrote brief essays about the films which were transcribed and numerically coded to conceal the author's gender from the evaluator. Using a coding scheme originated by Lyons, the evaluator classified each essay as a justice/right essay or a care/response essay or an equal response essay. Subsequently, calculations were made to (...) determine the percentage of male authored essays that were justice/rights essays or care/response essays and the percentage of female authored essays that were justice/rights or care/response essays. The males (87.7%) tended to exhibit the justice/rights moral orientation, and the females (69.4%) exhibited the care/response moral orientation. Several different calculations were made to determine various degrees of gender related orientations also. The difference in orientation was highly statistically significant (p≤0.001). These data contribute to understanding moral orientation and development. Interpretations are given to explain some differences between the genders and help explain the traditional roles in society that males and females have played historically. (shrink)
A study of nurses and nursing students was conducted to determine the various philosophical positions they hold with respect to ethical decision-making in nursing and their relationship to the subjective-objective controversy in value theory. The study revealed that most nurses and nursing students tend to be subjectivists in value theory, i.e., believe that value judgments are purely personal, private expressions of one's own opinion or inner-feelings and not believe that value judgments are knowledge claims capable of being true or false (...) and therefore not expressions of moral requirements and normative imperatives emanating from an external value structure or moral order in the world. In addition, the study revealed that most nurses and nursing students are inconsistent in the philosophical foundations of their ethical decision-making, i.e., in decision-making regarding values they tend to hold beliefs which are incompatible with other beliefs they hold about values. (shrink)
A study of clinical medical ethicists was conducted to determine the various philosophical positions they hold with respect to ethical decision making in medicine and their various positions' relationship to the subjective-objective controversy in value theory. The study consisted of analyzing and interpreting data gathered from questionnaires from 52 clinical medical ethicists at 28 major health care centers in the United States. The study revealed that most clinical medical ethicists tend to be objectivists in value theory, i.e., believe that value (...) judgments are knowledge claims capable of being true or false and therefore expressions of moral requirements and normative imperatives emanating from an external value structure or moral order in the world. In addition, the study revealed that most clinical medical ethicists are consistent in the philosophical foundations of their ethical decision making, i.e., in decision making regarding values they tend not to hold beliefs which are incompatible with other beliefs they hold about values. (shrink)
This descriptive study is an attempt to characterize the field known as clinical ethics, with regard to the function of humanities scholars in the clinical setting, e.g., hospitals and ambulatory care clinics. It is not a strict epidemiological study but a qualitative survey, although it reports some empirical data. Most discussions of medical humanities in the literature are conceptual analyses of particular issues, such as informed consent, abortion, confidentiality, etc. Virtually no empirical studies with data on how many clinical ethicists (...) function in what roles and with what educational backgrounds have been reported. This is the first such study of humanities scholars in clinical ethics and will be followed by companion reports of physicians and hospital chaplains who are, by self-report, involved in clinical ethics. This report is an effort to stimulate and encourage dialogue and is in no way definitive. It is a preliminary study, and other needed studies are already underway. (shrink)