Bioethical research has tended to focus on theoretical discussion of the principles on which the analysis of ethical issues in biomedicine should be based. But this discussion often seems remote from biomedical practice where researchers and physicians confront ethical problems. On the other hand, published empirical research on the ethical reasoning of health care professionals offer only descriptions of how physicians and nurses actually reason ethically. The question remains whether these descriptions have any normative implications for nurses and physicians? In (...) this article, we illustrate an approach that integrates empirical research into the formulation of normative ethical principles using the moral-philosophical method of Wide Reflective Equilibrium (WRE). The research method discussed in this article was developed in connection with the project ‘Bioethics in Theory and Practice’. The purpose of this project is to investigate ethical reasoning in biomedical practice in Denmark empirically. In this article, we take the research method as our point of departure, but we exclusively discuss the theoretical framework of the method, not its empirical results. We argue that the descriptive phenomenological hermeneutical method developed by Lindseth and Norberg (2004) and Pedersen (1999) can be combined with the theory of WRE to arrive at a decision procedure and thus a foundation for the formulation of normative ethical principles. This could provide health care professionals and biomedical researchers with normative principles about how to analyse, reason and act in ethically difficult situations in their practice. We also show how to use existing bioethical principles as inspiration for interpreting the empirical findings of qualitative studies. This may help researchers design their own empirical studies in the field of ethics. (shrink)
Research in nanotechnology has advanced rapidly in recent years. Several researchers, however, warn that there is a paucity of research on the ethical, legal, and social implications of nanotechnology, and they caution that ethical reflections on nanotechnology lag behind this fast developing science. In this article, the authors question this conclusion, pointing out that the predicted concrete ethical issues related to the area of nanotechnology are rather similar to those related to the area of biotechnology and biology that have been (...) considered by ethicists since the 1970s. Hence, a knowledge base has already been acquired from ethical reflections on biotechnology and biology, which may be a good starting point and foundation for a discussion of ethical reflections on nanotechnology. The authors argue that a promising approach is the use of basic ethical principles as a method to analyze ethical issues of nanotechnology. (shrink)
The aim of this study was to investigate the ethical dilemma of prioritising financial resources to expensive biological therapies. For this purpose, the four principles of biomedical ethics formulated by ethicists Tom Beauchamp and James Childress were used as a theoretical framework. Based on arguments of justice, Beauchamp and Childress advocate for a health care system organised in line with the Danish system. Notably, our study was carried out in a Danish setting.
The Danish healthcare system must meet the need for easy and equal access to healthcare for every citizen. However, investigations have shown unfair prioritization of cancer patients and unfair prioritization of resources for expensive medicines over care. What is needed are principles for proper prioritization. This article investigates whether American ethicists Tom Beauchamp and James Childress’s principle of justice may be helpful as a conceptual framework for reflections on prioritization of expensive biological therapies in the Danish healthcare system. We present (...) an empirical study exploring the principles for prioritizing new expensive biological therapies. This study includes qualitative interviews with key Danish stakeholders experienced in antibody therapy and prioritizing resources for expensive medicines. Beauchamp and Childress’s model only covers government-funded primary and acute healthcare. Based on the interviews, this study indicates that to be helpful in a Danish context this model should include equal access for citizens to government-funded primary and acute healthcare, costly medicine, and other scarce treatments. We conclude that slightly modified, Beauchamp and Childress’s principle of justice might be useful as a conceptual framework for reflections on the prioritization of expensive biological therapies in the Danish healthcare system. (shrink)
The experience with genetically modified foods has been prominent in motivating science, industry and regulatory bodies to address the social and ethical dimensions of nanotechnology. The overall objective is to gain the general public’s acceptance of nanotechnology in order not to provoke a consumer boycott as it happened with genetically modified foods. It is stated implicitly in reports on nanotechnology research and development that this acceptance depends on the public’s confidence in the technology and that the confidence is created on (...) the basis of information, education, openness and debate about scientific and technological developments. Hence, it is assumed that informing and educating the public will create trust, which will consequently lead to an acceptance of nanotechnology. Thus, the humanities and social sciences are seen as tools to achieve public acceptance. In this paper, the author argues that this is a narrow apprehension of the role of the humanities and social sciences. The humanities and social sciences have a critical function asking fundamental questions and informing the public about these reflections. This may lead to scepticism, however, the motivation for addressing the social and ethical dimensions of nanotechnology should not be public acceptance but informed judgement. The author illustrates this critical function by discussing the role, motivation and contribution of ethics as an example. Lastly, the author shows that a possible strategy for incorporating the humanities and the social sciences into nanotechnology research and development is Real-Time Technology Assessment, where the purpose is to integrate natural science and engineering investigations with ethical, legal and social science from the outset. (shrink)
The experience with genetically modified foods has been prominent in motivating science, industry and regulatory bodies to address the social and ethical dimensions of nanotechnology. The overall objective is to gain the general public’s acceptance of nanotechnology in order not to provoke a consumer boycott as it happened with genetically modified foods. It is stated implicitly in reports on nanotechnology research and development that this acceptance depends on the public’s confidence in the technology and that the confidence is created on (...) the basis of information, education, openness and debate about scientific and technological developments. Hence, it is assumed that informing and educating the public will create trust, which will consequently lead to an acceptance of nanotechnology. Thus, the humanities and social sciences are seen as tools to achieve public acceptance. (shrink)
BackgroundThis study presents an empirical investigation of the ethical reasoning and ethical issues at stake in the daily work of physicians and molecular biologists in Denmark. The aim of this study was to test empirically whether there is a difference in ethical considerations and principles between Danish physicians and Danish molecular biologists, and whether the bioethical principles of the American bioethicists Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress are applicable to these groups.MethodThis study is based on 12 semi-structured interviews with (...) three groups of respondents: a group of oncology physicians working in a clinic at a public hospital and two groups of molecular biologists conducting basic research, one group employed at a public university and the other in a private biopharmaceutical company.ResultsIn this sample, the authors found that oncology physicians and molecular biologists employed in a private biopharmaceutical company have the specific principle of beneficence in mind in their daily work. Both groups are motivated to help sick patients. According to the study, molecular biologists explicitly consider nonmaleficence in relation to the environment, the researchers' own health, and animal models; and only implicitly in relation to patients or human subjects. In contrast, considerations of nonmaleficence by oncology physicians relate to patients or human subjects. Physicians and molecular biologists both consider the principle of respect for autonomy as a negative obligation in the sense that informed consent of patients should be respected. However, in contrast to molecular biologists, physicians experience the principle of respect for autonomy as a positive obligation as the physician, in dialogue with the patient, offers a medical prognosis based upon the patients wishes and ideas, mutual understanding, and respect. Finally, this study discloses utilitarian characteristics in the overall conception of justice as conceived by oncology physicians and molecular biologists from the private biopharmaceutical company. Molecular biologists employed at a public university are, in this study, concerned with allocation, however, they do not propose a specific theory of justice.ConclusionThis study demonstrates that each of the four bioethical principles of the American bioethicists Tom L. Beauchamp & James F. Childress – respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice – are reflected in the daily work of physicians and molecular biologists in Denmark. Consequently, these principles are applicable in the Danish biomedical setting. (shrink)
The field of nanoscience and nanotechnology is expanding rapidly, promising great benefits for society in the form of better medicine, more efficient energy production, new types of materials, etc. Naturally, in order for the science and technology to live up to these promises, it is important to continue scientific research and development, but equally important is the ethical dimension. Giving attention to the social, ethical and legal aspects of the field, among others, will help in developing a fully responsible—and thereby (...) capable—science and technology. Nanoethics has emerged as a field concerned with such ethical issues related to nanoscience and nanotechnology. Even though this field is relatively new, a significant amount of literature has already been published. This paper focuses on three of the major issues which are discussed in the literature of nanoethics, and also points to a certain bias in this literature. Each quite different in nature, these issues are: (1) The naming and (2) the timing of and approach to the field, as well as (3) the issue of safety. As will be seen, these issues are almost exclusively discussed by ethicists, (throughout the article, the term’ethicist’ is used in a broad definition covering philosophers, social and political scientists as well as philosophers of science) thus having no direct influence on the work being carried out by scientists. One can argue, therefore, that this bias creates a distortion of the ethical debate, making it insufficient and misleading. Ultimately, this bias is caused by the lack of communication and collaboration between ethicists on the one hand, and nanoscientists on the other. Thus, an argument is made for the different disciplines to begin collaborating, so as to more effectively and responsibly develop the field of nanoscience. (shrink)
This article presents results from a qualitative empirical investigation of how Danish oncology physicians and Danish molecular biologists experience the principle of respect for autonomy in their daily work.
The field of nanotechnology and nanoscience is growing rapidly in many areas of research, from electronics to biomedicine to material science. Carbon nanotubes are receiving a lot of attention in the research due to their unique properties and many possible applications. This new material is a good example of how nanotechnology provides us with new opportunities, but at the same time leaves us a lot of unknowns to deal with. In order to deal with the unknowns we need to consider (...) both the science and the ethics of the different applications of this novel material. Nanoethics is the study of the ethical issues in nanotechnology. It is a relatively new field of study and a lot of different methods have been suggested in this area. In this article a method is suggested combining an existing ethical theory with a practical approach in order to do a case study of the ethical considerations of using carbon nanotubes in biomedicine. For the case study to be of practical significance the scientific characteristics and properties of carbon nanotubes are reviewed to give the reader an overview of the research field. (shrink)
During the education of scientists at the university level the students become more and more specialized. The specialization of the students is a consequence of the scientific research becoming specialized as well. In the interdisciplinary field of nanoscience the importance of specialization is also emphasized throughout the education. Being an interdisciplinary field of study the specialization in this area is not focused on scientific disciplines, but on the different branches of the research. Historically ethics has not been a priority in (...) science education, however, in recent years the importance of such teachings has been highly recognize especially in medicine, biotechnology and engineering. The rapid development, the many new and unknown areas and the highly specialized focus of nanotechnology suggest the importance of having ethically competent researchers. In this article the importance of ethical competence in nanoscience research is argued for by an example of a dilemma that could occur in a research project. The dilemma is analyzed using two different ethical views, generating two different choices for action. It is seen that the dilemma can have more than one solution and that ethical competence can help in justifying the choice of solution in a specific situation. Furthermore it is suggested that a way to reach this competence is through education in ethics incorporated into the nanoscience education curriculum. (shrink)