A clinical ethics consultant may, at times, be called upon to make independent substantive moral judgments and then offer justifications for those judgments. A CEC does not act unprofessionally by utilizing background beliefs that are religious in nature to justify those judgments. It is important, however, for a CEC to make such judgments authentically and, when asked, to offer up one’s reasons for why one believes the judgment is true in a transparent fashion.
Religions often operate as comprehensive worldviews, attempting to answer the deepest existential questions that human beings can ask: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going after I die? How should I live? Often ethical systems are embedded and justified within these broader narratives. Inevitably, the clinical ethics consultant will encounter and engage with religiously based ethical systems. In this issue, the authors reflect seriously and deeply on the implications of such engagement.
Clear and careful thinking is an indispensable aid in the pursuit of answers to the difficult ethical question faced by clinicians, patients, and families. In this issue of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy devoted to issues in clinical ethics, the authors engage in this enterprise by reflecting on morally good medical decision making, conscientious objection, presumed consent in organ donation, the permissibility of surrogate decision making, and the failure of legislative limits on the scope of euthanasia in Belgium.
In After God: Morality and Bioethics in a Secular Age, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. explores the broad implications for moral reasoning once a culture has lost a God’s-eye perspective. In this paper, I focus on the implications of Engelhardt’s views for clinical ethics consultation. I begin by examining the question of whether clinical ethics consultants should advocate a particular viewpoint and/or process during consultations or adopt a neutral stance. I then examine the implications of Engelhardt’s views for this question. Finally, (...) I discuss some of Engelhardt’s foundational ontological, metaphysical, meta-ethical, and epistemological commitments and how these commitments connect to his views on clinical ethics consultation. (shrink)
Head transplantation fits within the broader conceptual space occupied by transhumanists and others who seek to extend the lives of human beings indefinitely. It is reasonable to reflect on whether, under what circumstances, and in what ways human immortality would be good. In this paper, I disambiguate the ways in which immortality might be considered a human good and then argue that immortality is neither necessary nor sufficient condition for objective meaning in life. I also argue that mortality is not (...) a necessary condition for objective meaning in life. (shrink)
Conceptual clarity is essential when engaging in dialogue to avoid unnecessary disagreement and to promote mutual understanding. In this issue devoted to clinical bioethics, the authors exemplify the virtue of careful conceptual analysis as they explore complex clinical questions regarding the essential nature of medicine, the boundaries of killing and letting die, the meaning of irreversibility in definitions of death, the argument for a right to try experimental medications, the ethical borders in complex medical billing, and the definition and modeling (...) of complex disease states. (shrink)
An important role of the philosopher is to critically reflect on what is often taken for granted, using the tools of argument and analysis. This article engages with six different papers that offer critical reflections on conventional concepts and beliefs in bioethics regarding informed consent, continuous deep sedation, traditional moral theories underlying bioethical thinking, the definition of mental disease, and codes of ethics for particular medical specialties.
The central claim of this paper is that American states’ use of so-called “triggering conditions” to regulate surrogate decision-making authority in end-of-life care leaves unresolved a number of important ethical and legal considerations regarding the scope of that authority. The paper frames the issue with a case set in a jurisdiction in which surrogate authority to withdraw life-sustaining treatment is triggered by two specific clinical conditions. The case presents a quandary insofar as the clinical facts do not satisfy the triggering (...) conditions, and yet both the appropriate surrogates and the care team agree that withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment is in the best interest of the patient. The paper surveys applicable law across the 50 states and weighs the arguments for and against the inclusion of such triggering conditions in relevant legal regimes. The paper concludes by assessing the various legal and policy options states have for regulating surrogate decision-making authority in light of the moral considerations, and notes the possibility for conflict within ethics teams arising from the potential tension between prudence, risk-aversion, and moral obligation. (shrink)
Often lurking below the surface of many clinical ethical issues are questions regarding background metaphysical, epistemological, meta-ethical, and political beliefs. In this issue, authors critically examine the effects of background beliefs on conscientious objection, explore ethical issues through the lenses of particular theoretical approaches like pragmatism and intersectional theory, rigorously explore the basic concepts at play within the patient safety movement, offer new theoretical approaches to old problems involving decision making for patients with dementia, explicate and explore the problems and (...) promises of machine learning in medicine, and offer us a non-rights-based argument for the just distribution of healthcare resources. (shrink)
This issue of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy is dedicated to topics in clinical ethics with essays addressing clinician participation in state sponsored execution, duties to decrease ecological footprints in medicine, the concept of caring and its relationship to conscientious refusal, the dilemmas involved in dual use research, a philosophical and practical critique of principlism, conundrums that arise when applying surrogate decision-making models to patients with moderate intellectual disabilities, the phenomenology of chronic disease, and ethical concerns surrounding the use (...) of artificial intelligence in medicine. Throughout the issue, the themes of conceptual and moral boundaries in bioethics, critiques of current clinical ethics paradigms, and the importance of transparency are prominent. (shrink)