Adding to Bioethical Analysis

Welcome to Modern Bioethics. I have pulled together articles and books covering broad topics to demonstrate the methods and frameworks in place for analyzing traditional and new issues in bioethics. I also highlight the shortfalls of some known frameworks and offer inclusive frameworks or necessary add-ons in some cases. By curating a collection that includes authors who analyze fact patterns using different approaches, I aim to promote forward thinking approaches to complex scientific and medical ethical dilemmas. For example, some issues are best resolved by using a broad syndemics framework, e.g., in analyzing the effects of policies on the harms caused by the pandemic. Other issues may require expanding on the four principles — looking more deeply into how beneficence is interpreted with an eye to underlying philosophy or creating multiple justice frameworks.

Beneficence, for example, is doing good, which differs from being good, something that might be better addressed with virtue ethics. Beneficence cannot operate without limitation or autonomy would be sacrificed.

This mini-course focuses on how these expansive frameworks apply and which frameworks are most helpful in addressing which issues. This project is an effort to contextualize bioethical dilemmas, to expanding the thought process to include more considerations, and to explore  the stakeholders and the ethical differences in their stake. Critical thinking and logic will help you see the breadth of the issues, contextualize them, delineate the role of public policy or even global cooperation from the role of corporate, hospital, or even individual behaviors. There are a lot of stakeholders in bioethics, sometimes the arena is global and individuals everywhere will be impacted by a scientific discovery. Some people are more able to speak for themselves or hold more power in the conversation. In some countries corporations or the government drown out other voices.

I do not focus on the conclusions. This program expands the bioethics arena beyond principlism and expands the depth of analysis when principlism is applied. Rather than leading to checklists, something I do find valuable in preventing ethics breaches or problems in clinical settings, this course’s goal is to promote thinking about bioethics using multiple frameworks to define issues and problem-solving techniques. The best solutions involve compromise if not consensus, although as you will analyze the role of stakeholders, some solutions concern individual rights or autonomy. In those cases, sometimes the best solution might reflect negative rights, sometimes called natural rights, and the compromise or consensus is that individuals decide for themselves.

You can expect to learn frameworks to inform analysis of person-centered care, justice issues, disasters and pandemics, reproductive health, genetic enhancement, and conflicts of interest.

This course is not meant to promote a viewpoint. It is meant to promote thinking and to encourage depth of discussion with an eye to consensus or compromise. Rather than agreeing to disagree, something that allows people to walk away righteous and even angry, those evaluating bioethical dilemmas should think through both positions and aim to understand the other stakeholders’ reasoning. Reasoning and deliberation can lead to mutual understanding, allowing people to appreciate other viewpoints, and ensuring that the most well-reasoned, all-things-considered approach will be contemplated and poised for success, or at least for respect. By propelling views supported by reasoning, data, and ethics, inclusive ethical frameworks can move bioethics to a forward-thinking field that values multiple stakeholders and brings parties together.

Photo 236974822 © Colleen Sizemore |

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