Against medical ethics: opening the can of worms

Cassell, J (1998) Against medical ethics: opening the can of worms. Journal of Medical Ethics, 24 (1). 8-12; discussion 13. ISSN 0306-6800

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In a controversial paper, David Seedhouse argues that medical ethics is not and cannot be a distinct discipline with it own field of study. He derives this claim from a characterization of ethics, which he states but does not defend. He claims further that the project of medical ethics as it exists and of moral philosophy do not overlap. I show that Seedhouse's views on ethics have wide implications which he does not declare, and in the light of this argue that Seedhouse owes us a defence of his characterization of ethics. Further, I show that his characterization of ethics, which he uses to attack medical ethics, is a committed position within moral philosophy. As a consequence of this, it does not allow the relation between moral philosophy and medical ethics to be discussed without prejudice to its outcome. Finally, I explore the relation between Seedhouse's position and naturalism, and its implications for medical epistemology. I argue that this shows us that Seedhouse's position, if it can be defended, is likely to lead to a fruitful and important line of inquiry which reconnects philosophy and medical ethics.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Comment Journal Article
Keywords: Ethical Theory Ethics, Medical Humans Morals Philosophy, Medical Specialism Bioethics and Professional Ethics Philosophical Approach
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Primary Care and Public Health
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Depositing User: Jackie Cassell
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2007
Last Modified: 23 May 2018 14:33
Google Scholar:5 Citations
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