Introduction to bioethics
Bioethics is the ethics in bio.
Type of applied ethics
General ethical theories, principles and riles to problems of therapeutic practice, health care
delivery, and medical and biological research.
Dates back to 5th century BC with the Hippocratic Oath which is the first code of ethics for
health care professionals.
Bioethics and the law, a close relationship.
Ethical non- cognitivism:
Some people believe that what’s right or wrong (good or bad) depends upon how they/we feel
about it these share an non-cognitivist or a meta ethical position we will not deal with this kind
of ethics in our course as it maybe subjective
Non- cognitivist meta-ethical position, also known as ethical Non-cognitivism.
People who do not have knowledge about good/bad? :
Argues that no matter how much logic or reasoning(based on knowledge) you use, you can
never settle a disagreement on what is right. In other words, we think we are right because it
Other people believe that what is right or wrong is relative to a particular point of view. This is
called ethical relativism.
It is the position that what is right or wrong is based on reasoning , and not just on feelings, but
that there is no objective and universal right or wrong. Every individual or a group has their own
values, and understanding of what is right and wrong.
Yet other people believe that right or wrong, good or bad, etc., are objective in nature. This is
the so- called ethical objectivism.
It is the position that right and wrong are objective phenomena, that is, they are recognized by
everyone. So, when we make ethical claims, we make claims about how the world really is.
Ethical objectivism believes that people's actions and dispositions have moral qualities and are
not just a matter of a point of view, or a feeling.
This is the position we'll accept as true in this course.
There are a few objectivist ethical theories:
I. Teleological or consequentialist (focuses on the outcome of a decision) theories:
The best known teleological theory is Utilitarianism.
Most famous proponent is John Stuart Mill.
Takes for its fundamental principle the so- called principle of utility. The principle of utility says: the greatest good and the least harm for the greatest number of
The problem with the principle of utility is that it does not tell us what the nature of this good or
Because of that, its split into different types of utilitarianisms depending on the definition of
good/bad, how we identify this good or bad, and how to apply the principle of utility. We will
cover 2 of them
Proposes that we should apply the principle of utility on a case-to-case basis, without reference
to universal rules. (e.g: not having an abortion law and examining every case individually)
Proposes that utility cannot be calculated for individual acts but only for general rules of
conduct. Thus, when we deal with an actual moral dilemma, the decision making process should
depend upon identifying the general rule to be applied in the given situation.
Read p. 6-7 from the first article (Ethical theory).
II. Deontological theories:
They are not concerned with outcomes but with rights and duties.
There are two types of deontological approach: monistic and pluralistic.
Categorical Imperative (monistic):
Immanuel Kant's ethical theory is the best known deontological monistic approach. Its also
called the categorical imperative.
1. The first definition of the Categorical imperative: you should “act only according to that maxim
by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (you should
follow a rule that you think is O.K for everyone else to follow)
2. The second definition of the categorical imperative which Kant called 'practical imperative': you
should act so that you treat humanity always as an end and never as a means only.
Read example on p. 8 of your text.
The pluralistic deontological approach:
It says that there are several universal moral principles which should be balanced against each
other in a given situation and that should be used more as guidelines than as rigid rules.
Principles are listed on page 9 of the course pack
Lecture 2 chris’s notes ( I missed this one)
The last two principles are teleological in nature but they could be interpreted as deontological.
In it's deontological interpretation the principle of beneficence should read as 'everyo