Enriching Our Values on Clinical Ethics: Results of a Qualitative Study of the Moral Psychology of Healthcare Ethics Committee Members
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2008; 5(1): 57-67
The contribution of healthcare ethics committee (HEC) members to HECs is fundamental. However, little is known about how HEC members view clinical ethics. We report results from a qualitative study of the moral psychology of HEC members. We found that contrary to the existing Kohlberg-based studies, HEC members hold a pragmatic non-expert view of clinical ethics based mainly on respect for persons and a commitment to the patient?s good. In general, HEC members hold deflationary views regarding moral theory. Ethical principles are not abstract foundations but the expression of moral commitments to patients that pre-exist awareness of moral theory. Emotions and proximity to patient sufferance fundamentally shape the views of HEC members on clinical ethics. Further work at the intersection of clinical ethics and qualitative research could bring to the foreground lay perspectives on moral problems that may differ from bioethics expert views.
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