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  • Writer's pictureSociety of Bioethics and Medicine


Updated: Jul 21, 2020

BY – SHLOMO SMALL May 2, 2018

The need for the field of bioethics, and ethicists in general, is apparent to most reading this. The horrors of the past have not yet been in the rearview long enough to fade from memory. However, beyond the basic principles under which we operate–such as the concepts of Autonomy, Nonmaleficence, Beneficence, and Justice–the overarching philosophy of the field is not as clear. We stress over and occupy ourselves with how to apply these principles to the various cases that come our way, yet we lack–-beyond the Law and our own personal morality–a theme to focus these concepts.

A good example of this is the question: should doctors be considered healers/preservers of life or just as facilitators of the, objectively, best decision in the realm of health and quality of life? In a philosophical sense, much like a judge in a legal case, the doctor is disinterested. Before any other questions are even considered, this rather basic and fundamental question should be answered.

In a grander sense, the bioethics field needs a rudder to allow for direction. Without bearing, there is no destination; therein, equal treatment and ethical treatment of patients is not the motivation so much as the modus operandi. A more unified perspective to approach medicine/bioethics sanctions a more coherent approach and message. This is not a new concept; rather it falls under the umbrella of “meta philosophy,” so called meta-bioethics.

This will also have the benefit of taking bioethics out of the case-by-case determination by ethicists and review boards, since the determination of the various ratios of our aforementioned concepts will not be the only consideration, thereby allowing for more freedom, choice, and on-the-ground decisions. Additionally, this allows for even more ethical treatment of patients and function within our workplace, as we strive to fulfill this ideal. Such a clear goal/objective is the first thing that must be defined for the medical/bio fields, and then we can have a unified perspective.


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