Medical Ethics


Biomedical Ethics or Medical Ethics is a branch of Ethics that is part of Applied Ethics or Applied or Practical Ethics.  Ethics is a branch of Philosophy which is a human endeavor that has changed the course of history.  We are all what we are, in part, because of the ideas of philosophers.  There are not too many people who believe this.  There are not that many people who think very much of Philosophy at all.  Yet Philosophy has and does impact the lives of just about every thinking person on the planet.  In fact, the very way in which we think is partly the result of the ideas which philosophers have produced over the ages and in all cultures.  Just how is this the case?  This is something that is not immediately obvious in contemporary culture.  Today philosophy, if it is thought about at all, probably is thought to be some obscure and complicated subject for intellectuals that has no bearing on the important matters of everyday life.  Yet this is not the case at all.  In fact there are many things that people think are true and believe that are not true at all and this includes the very idea of what constitutes truth. 

Philosophy, in relation to the subject matter of this text , has come to be appreciated for its ability to analyze situations and to delineate the important issues and then to indicate what values may be related to those issues.  In the areas of Medicine and Medical Research and Health Care there has been a noticeable and meaningful involvement of philosophers over the last three decades.  There are many philosophers who have been summoned to public service by serving on Presidential Commissions or legislative committees or on hospital and research staffs as resources and as ethicians in residence.  They apply their skills and knowledge to moral dilemmas and troublesome situations and present what they think are the most significant issues involved and the values that are at stake.  It is then for the policy makers and decision makers to work with what the philosophers provide them.

Medical practitioners and researchers have found a need to study ethics and become familiar with the concepts and principles and the mode of reasoned argumentation in order to understand better what they must deal with and the decisions they must make in their practice and research.

This ext hopes to present material that will inform the reader and assist the reader as decision maker in confronting moral dilemmas encountered in situations involving medical research or practice and with heath care.

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In this text and course it is my task to challenge the reader, to invite and to encourage the reader to think and to think critically concerning these basic and important questions and problems.  I shall often present material and questions which challenge the accepted view, the predominant view, the popular view, and the view which most people acquire through their culture and assume to be not only true but the only view.  The aim is to broaden and expand awareness.  The aim is to develop reasoning skills and critical thinking abilities.  It shall be my aim to get the reader to think about new things. This is education.  I shall also attempt to provoke the reader to think about things in a new manner.  This is also education but it may not be what some expect or want.  It involves growth.  Sometimes people resist thinking about familiar subjects in new ways.  However, it is sometimes necessary to do so in order to develop a better understanding of the matter or the situation or answer the question or to solve the problem.  It is hoped that all who read this text seriously will realize these aims of thinking critically and analyzing dilemmas and applying principles in making decisions.  If I succeed the reader should expect to be challenged concerning what is valued and what is believed and in how one goes about thinking and making decisions..

This text is in good part the result of what learners and readers have informed the author is needed and valuable.  It is to be revised each semester with materials be added, removed and altered.  The author is open to suggestions as to how he might accomplish the basic aims of this text in a more effective manner.  Please do not hesitate to email me with your ideas.

Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.

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