A waste of time: the problem of common morality in Principles of Biomedical Ethics

Karlsen, Jan Reinert; Solbakk, Jan Helge
October 2011
Journal of Medical Ethics;Oct2011, Vol. 37 Issue 10, p588
Academic Journal
From the 5th edition of Beauchamp and Childress' Principles of Biomedical Ethics, the problem of common morality has been given a more prominent role and emphasis. With the publication of the 6th and latest edition, the authors not only attempt to ground their theory in common morality, but there is also an increased tendency to identify the former with the latter. While this stratagem may give the impression of a more robust, and hence stable, foundation for their theoretical construct, we fear that it comes with a cost, namely the need to keep any theory in medical ethics open to, and thereby aware of, the challenges arising from biomedical research and clinical practice, as well as healthcare systems. By too readily identifying the moral life of common morality with rule-following behaviour, Beauchamp and Childress may even be wrong about the nature of common morality as such, thereby founding their, by now, classic theory on quicksand instead of solid rock.


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