Today, the frequency and the rate of success resulting from advances in medicine have made organ transplantations an everyday occurrence. Still, organ transplantations and donations modify the subjective experience of human beings as regards the image they have of themselves, of body, of life and of death. If the concern of the quality of life and the survival of the patients is a completely human phenomenon, the fact remains that the possibility of organ transplantation and its justification depend a great deal on the culture in which we live. The exploration of the philosophical tradition allows for a reconsideration of organ transplantation. If we listen to people who have experienced the decline of one of their organs and their own rebirth through the organ of someone else, we arrive at the conclusion that they went through an extreme experience in which nothing appeared as before. All those experiences intensify philosophical questionings on the meaning of life with respect to self fulfilment. The concept of nature as the experience of others can be an authentic source from which to nourish our thoughts about organ transplantation. However, and this is our hypothesis, we need something more if we are to decide something about our own life. We need a hermeneutical stance in relation to ourselves and to our world. Philosophical counselling, as a long established tradition originating with Pythagoras and later reframed by the German philosopher Achenbach could be useful in inspiring a reflection on the good life, chiefly as it takes the form of a Socratic dialogue.
Nature; Naturalism; Phenomenology; Hermeneutics; Aristotle; Descartes; Meaning; Wisdom; Organ transplantation
One of the key roles of the English National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is technology appraisal. This essentially involves evaluating the cost effectiveness of pharmaceutical products and other technologies for use within the National Health Service. Based on a content analysis of key documents which shed light on the nature of appraisals, this paper draws attention to the multiple layers of uncertainty and complexity which are latent within the appraisal process, and the often socially constructed mechanisms for tackling these. Epistemic assumptions, bounded rationality and more explicitly relational forms of managing knowledge are applied to this end. These findings are discussed in the context of the literature highlighting the inherently social process of regulation. A framework is developed which posits the various forms of uncertainty, and responses to these, as potential conduits of regulatory bias—in need of further research. That NICE’s authority is itself regulated by other actors within the regulatory regime, particularly the pharmaceutical industry, exposes it to the threat of regulatory capture. Following Lehoux, it is concluded that a more transparent and reflexive format for technological appraisals is necessary. This would enable a more robust, defensible form of decision-making and moreover enable NICE to preserve its legitimacy in the midst of pressures which threaten this.
Alzheimer’s; Complexity; Hope; Polycentric regimes; Regulation; Uncertainty
In this paper phenomenological descriptions of the experiential structures of suicidality and of self-determined behaviour are given; an understanding of the possible scopes and forms of lived self-determination in suicidal mental life is offered. Two possible limits of lived self-determination are described: suicide is always experienced as minimally self-determined, because it is the last active and effective behaviour, even in blackest despair; suicide can never be experienced as fully self-determined, even if valued as the authentic thing to do, because no retrospective re-evaluation from some future vantage is possible. The phenomenological descriptions of the possible scope of lived self-determination in suicidality, presented in this paper, should prove to be extremely helpful in three different fields of interest: (a) ethical debates regarding the pros and cons of autonomous or heteronomous suicide; (b) clinical day-to-day practice with respect to treating suicidal people; (c) people who suffered a suicidal crisis, attempted suicide or lost loved ones through suicides. (155 words).
Agency; Autonomy; Conduct of life; Experience of being rescued; Minimal sense of self-determination; Phenomenology; Self-effectivity; Suicide
Great hope has been placed on biobank research as a strategy to improve diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention. It seems to be a common opinion that these goals cannot be reached without the participation of commercial actors. However, commercial use of biobanks is considered morally problematic and the commercialisation of human biological materials is regulated internationally by policy documents, conventions and laws. For instance, the Council of Europe recommends that: “Biological materials should not, as such, give rise to financial gain”. Similarly, Norwegian legislation reads: “Commercial exploitation of research participants, human biological material and personal health data in general is prohibited”. Both articles represent kinds of common moral intuitions. A problem, however, is that legislative documents are too vague and provide room for ample speculation. Through the use of focus group interviews with Norwegian biobank donors, we have tried to identify lay intuitions and morals regarding the commercial use of biobanks. Our findings indicate that the act of donation and the subsequent uses of the samples belong to two different spheres. While concerns around dignity and commodification were present in the first, injustice and unfairness were our informants’ major moral concerns in the latter. Although some opposition towards commercial actors was voiced, these intuitions show that it is possible to render commercial use of biobanks ethically acceptable based on frameworks and regulations which hinder commodification of the human body and promote communal benefit sharing.
Benefit sharing; Biobanking; Commercialisation; Commodification; Focus group research; Lay perspective
This article analyzes the religio-ethical discussions of Muslim religious scholars, which took place in Europe specifically in the UK and the Netherlands, on organ donation. After introductory notes on fatwas (Islamic religious guidelines) relevant to biomedical ethics and the socio-political context in which discussions on organ donation took place, the article studies three specific fatwas issued in Europe whose analysis has escaped the attention of modern academic researchers. In 2000 the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) issued a fatwa on organ donation. Besides this “European” fatwa, two other fatwas were issued respectively in the UK by the Muslim Law (Shariah) Council in 1995 and in the Netherlands by the Moroccan religious scholar Muṣṭafā Ben Ḥamza during a conference on “Islam and Organ Donation” held in March 2006. The three fatwas show that a great number of Muslim religious scholars permit organ donation and this holds true for donating organs to non-Muslims as well. Further, they demonstrate that transnationalism is one of the main characteristics of contemporary Islamic bioethics. In a bid to develop their own standpoints towards organ donation, Muslims living in the West rely heavily on fatwas imported from the Muslim world.
Islam; Fatwas; Organ donation; Islamic bioethics; Interplay of Islam and the West; Muslims in Europe
In various documents the view emerges that contemporary biotechnosciences are currently experiencing a scientific revolution: a massive increase of pace, scale and scope. A significant part of the research endeavours involved in this scientific upheaval is devoted to understanding and, if possible, ameliorating humankind: from our genomes up to our bodies and brains. New developments in contemporary technosciences, such as synthetic biology and other genomics and “post-genomics” fields, tend to blur the distinctions between prevention, therapy and enhancement. An important dimension of this development is “biomimesis”: i.e. the tendency of novel technologies and materials to mimic or plagiarize nature on a molecular and microscopic level in order to optimise prospects for the embedding of technological artefacts in natural systems such as human bodies and brains. In this paper, these developments are read and assessed from a psychoanalytical perspective. Three key concepts from psychoanalysis are used to come to terms with what is happening in research laboratories today. After assessing the general profile of the current revolution in this manner, I will focus on a particular case study, a line of research that may serve as exemplification of the vicissitudes of contemporary technosciences, namely viral biomaterials. Viral life forms can be genetically modified (their genomes can be rewritten) in such a manner that they may be inserted in human bodies in order to produce substances at specific sites such as hormones (testosterone), neurotransmitters (dopamine), enzymes (insulin) or bone and muscle tissue. Notably, certain target groups such as top athletes, soldiers or patients suffering from degenerative diseases may become the pioneers serving as research subjects for novel applications. The same technologies can be used for various purposes ranging from therapy up to prevention and enhancement.
Psychoanalysis of science; Genomics; Synthetic biology; Biomimesis; Viral biomaterials
After having received little attention over the past decades, one of the least known human rights—the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications—has had its dust blown off. Although included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)—be it at the very end of both instruments -this right hardly received any attention from States, UN bodies and programmes and academics. The role of science in societies and its benefits and potential danger were discussed in various international fora, but hardly ever in a human rights context. Nowadays, within a world that is increasingly turning to science and technology for solutions to persistent socio-economic and development problems, the human dimension of science also receives increased attention, including the human right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. This contribution analyses the possible legal obligations of States in relation to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, in particular as regards health.
Human Rights; International Human Rights Law; Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress; Right to Health; Scientific Progress; Health
Terminal kidney patients are faced with lower quality of life, restricted diets and higher morbidity and mortality rates while waiting for deceased donor kidney transplantation. Fortunately, living kidney donation has proven to be a better treatment alternative (e.g. in terms of waiting time and graft survival rates). We observed an inequality in the number of living kidney transplantations performed between the non-European and the European patients in our center. Such inequality has been also observed elsewhere in this field and it has been suggested that this inequality relates to, among other things, attitude differences towards donation based on religious beliefs. In this qualitative research we investigated whether religion might indeed (partly) be the explanation of the inequalities in living donor kidney transplants (LDKT) among non-European patients. Fifty patients participated in focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. The interviews were conducted following the focus group method and analyzed in line with Grounded Theory. The qualitative data analyses were performed in Atlas.ti. We found that religion is not perceived as an obstacle to living donation and that religion actually promotes helping and saving the life of a person. Issues such as integrity of the body were not seen as barriers to LDKT. We observed also that there are still uncertainties and a lack of awareness about the position of religion regarding living organ donation within communities, confusion due to varying interpretations of Holy Scriptures and misconceptions regarding the process of donation. Faith leaders play an important educational role and their opinion is influential. This study has identified modifiable factors which may contribute to the ethnic disparity in our living donation program. We argue that we need to strive for more clarity and awareness regarding the stance of religion on the issue of living donation in the local community. Faith leaders could be key figures in increasing awareness and alleviating uncertainty regarding living donation and transplantation.
Attitudes; Communication; Ethnicity; Kidney transplantation; Organ donation; Religion
“Ethics” is used as a label for a new kind of expertise in the field of science and technology. At the same time, it is not clear what ethical expertise consists in and what its political status in modern democracies can be. Starting from the “participatory turn” in recent social research and policy, we will argue that bioethical reasoning has to include public views of and attitudes towards biomedicine. We will sketch the outlines of a bioethical conception of “public understanding of ethics,” addressing three different issues: (a) the methodological relevance of moral questions and problems raised by lay persons in everyday life regarding biomedicine and technology, (b) the normative relevance of such lay moralities for the justification of ethical decisions, and (c) the necessity of public deliberation in this context. Finally, we draw conclusions in view of the concepts and methods such a conception of “public understanding of ethics” should employ.
Ethics expertise; Public understanding of science; Lay moralities; Qualitative social research; Deliberation; Participation
In almost all opt-in systems of postmortal organ procurement, if the deceased has not made a decision about donation, his relatives will be asked to make it. Can this decision power be justified? I consider three possible justifications. (1) We could presume the deceased to have delegated this power to his relatives. (2) It could be argued that, if the deceased has not made a decision, a proxy decision has to be made in his best interests. (3) The relatives could have a standing of their own because they are singled out from the parties whose interests are being affected by the decision by the special relation they had to the deceased. None of these arguments turns out to be convincing.
Opt-in system; Organ donation; Presumed consent; Proxy decision making; Special relations
“Home” is well known from everyday experience, plays a crucial role in all kinds of narratives about human life, but is hardly ever systematically dealt with in the philosophy of medicine and health care. The notion of home is ambiguous, is often used in a metaphorical way, and is closely related to concepts such as house and dwelling. In this paper the phenomenon of home is explored by means of some phenomenological writings of Heidegger, Bollnow, Bachelard and Levinas. Common in their views is that being at home and dwelling mean something more fundamental than an activity we do along with other activities, such as working and travelling. Dwelling, building a house and being at home are fundamental aspects of human existence. Being human is dwelling. While exploring the relevance of this phenomenological perspective for medical theory and practice, the focus is on the care of people suffering from dementia.
Bachelard; Bollnow; Dementia; Dwelling; Heidegger; Home; House; Levinas; Metaphor; Phenomenology
Questions on what it means to live and die well are raised and discussed in the hospice movement. A phenomenological lifeworld perspective may help professionals to be aware of meaningful and important dimensions in the lives of persons close to death. Lifeworld is not an abstract philosophical term, but rather the opposite. Lifeworld is about everyday, common life in all its aspects. In the writings of Cicely Saunders, known as the founder of the modern hospice movement, facets of lifeworld are presented as important elements in caring for dying patients. Palliative care and palliative medicine today are, in many ways, replacing hospices. This represents not only a change in name, but also in the main focus. Hospice care was originally very much about providing support and comfort for, and interactions with the patients. Improved medical knowledge today means improved symptomatic palliation, but also time and resources spent in other ways than before. Observations from a Nordic hospice ward indicate that seriously ill and dying persons spend much time on their own. Different aspects of lifeworld and intersubjectivity in the dying persons’ room is presented and discussed.
Lifeworld; Hospice; Palliative care; Ethics in end-of-life-care; Evidence-based
In this paper I explore the politics of trust in the clinical testing of pharmaceuticals in the US. Specifically, I analyze trust in terms of its institutional manifestations in the pharmaceutical clinical trials industry. In the process of testing new drugs, pharmaceutical companies must (1) protect their proprietary information from the clinicians who conduct their studies, and (2) find a way to ensure human subjects' compliance to study protocols. Concern with these two critical issues leads drug companies to approach clinicians and research subjects with an attitude of mistrust and the desire to exert control over their activities. This orientation results in an institutionalization of mistrust that structures the relationships and activities required for the clinical development of new pharmaceutical products.
Clinical trials; Contract research; Drug development; Human subjects; Pharmaceutical industry; Trust
A continuing need for care for elderly, combined with looser family structures prompt the question what filial obligations are. Do adult children of elderly have a duty to care? Several theories of filial obligation are reviewed. The reciprocity argument is not sensitive to the parent–child relationship after childhood. A theory of friendship does not offer a correct parallel for the relationship between adult child and elderly parent. Arguments based on need or vulnerability run the risk of being unjust to those on whom a needs-based claim is laid. To compare filial obligations with promises makes too much of parents’ expectations, however reasonable they may be. The good of being in an unchosen relationship seems the best basis for filial obligations, with an according duty to maintain the relationship when possible. We suggest this relationship should be maintained even if one of the parties is no longer capable of consciously contributing to it. We argue that this entails a duty to care about one’s parents, not for one’s parents. This implies that care for the elderly is not in the first place a task for adult children.
Filial obligations; Care; Elderly parents; Adult children; Ethics; Health care policy
The moral discourse surrounding end-of-life (EoL) decisions is highly complex, and a comparison of Germany and Israel can highlight the impact of cultural factors. The comparison shows interesting differences in how patient’s autonomy and doctor’s duties are morally and legally related to each other with respect to the withholding and withdrawing of medical treatment in EoL situations. Taking the statements of two national expert ethics committees on EoL in Israel and Germany (and their legal outcome) as an example of this discourse, we describe the similarity of their recommendations and then focus on the differences, including the balancing of ethical principles, what is identified as a problem, what social role professionals play, and the influence of history and religion. The comparison seems to show that Israel is more restrictive in relation to Germany, in contrast with previous bioethical studies in the context of the moral and legal discourse regarding the beginning of life, in which Germany was characterized as far more restrictive. We reflect on the ambivalence of the cultural reasons for this difference and its expression in various dissenting views on passive euthanasia and advance directives, and conclude with a comment on the difficulty in classifying either stance as more or less restrictive.
Culture; End of life; Expert ethics committees; Doctors’ duties; German law; Living will; Israeli Law; Patients’ rights; Religion
In discussions about the legalisation of active, voluntary euthanasia it is sometimes claimed that what should happen in a liberal society is that the two sides in the debate “agree to disagree”. This paper explores what is entailed by agreeing to disagree and shows that this is considerably more complicated than what is usually believed to be the case. Agreeing to disagree is philosophically problematic and will often lead to an unstable compromise.
Agree to disagree; Conscientious objection; Euthanasia; Liberalism; Public policy
In this article I intend to describe an issue of the Dutch euthanasia practice that is not common knowledge. After some general introductory descriptions, by way of formulating a frame of reference, I shall describe the effects of this practice on patients, physicians and families, followed by a more philosophical reflection on the significance of these effects for the assessment of the authenticity of a request and the nature of unbearable suffering, two key concepts in the procedure towards euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. This article does not focus on the arguments for or against euthanasia and the ethical justification of physician-assisted dying. These arguments have been described extensively in Kimsma and Van Leeuwen (Asking to die. Inside the Dutch debate about euthanasia, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 1998).
Euthanasia; Physician-assisted suicide; The Dutch Euthanasia Law; Euthanasia consultants; Euthanasia Review Committees; Effects of euthanasia on physicians; Patients and families; Euthanasia requests and ethical/psychological conflicts; Medical friendship
Distributive justice on the income and on the service aspects is the most vexing modern day problem for the creation and maintenance of an all inclusive health care system. A pervasive problem of all current schemes is the lack of effective cost control, which continues to result in increasing burdens for all public and private stakeholders. This proposal posits that the responsibility and financial obligation to achieve an ideal outcome of equal and affordable access and benefits for all citizens is misplaced. The Good Samaritan demonstrated basic ethical principles, which are revisited, elaborated and integrated into a new approach to health care. The participants are limited to individual contributors and beneficiaries and organized as a citizen carried, closed, independent, and self-sufficient self-governing cooperative for their own and the benefit of a minority of disadvantaged health care consumers. The government assumes oversight, provides arbitration, enforces democratic decision making, a scheme of progressive taxation, a separate and transparent accounting system, and a balance between income and reinvestment in health care. The results are a fair distribution of cost, its effective control, and increased individual motivation to take on responsibility for personal health as a private good and a sharpened focus towards community health. At the sociopolitical level the government as well as employers are released from the inappropriate burden of catering to individual health.
Cost spiral in health care; Beneficence as universal attitude; Autonomy equals self-rule; Health care cooperative; Health as private good; Built in cost control
In some criminal cases a forensic psychiatrist is asked to make an assessment of the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the legally relevant act. A considerable number of people seem to hold that the basis for this assessment is that free will is required for legal responsibility, and that mental disorders can compromise free will. In fact, because of the alleged relationship between the forensic assessment and free will, researchers in forensic psychiatry also consider the complicated metaphysical discussions on free will relevant to the assessment. At the same time, there is concern about the lack of advancement with respect to clarifying the nature of the forensic assessment. In this paper I argue that, even if free will is considered relevant, there may be no need for forensic researchers to engage into metaphysical discussions on free will in order to make significant progress. I will do so, drawing a parallel between the assessment of criminal responsibility on the one hand, and the medical practice of obtaining informed consent on the other. I argue that also with respect to informed consent, free will is considered relevant, or even crucial. This is the parallel. Yet, researchers on informed consent have not entered into metaphysical debates on free will. Meanwhile, research on informed consent has made significant progress. Based on the parallel with respect to free will, and the differences with respect to research, I conclude that researchers on forensic assessment may not have to engage into metaphysical discussions on free will in order to advance our understanding of this psychiatric practice.
Free will; Criminal responsibility; Informed consent; Forensic psychiatry; Law
The goal of this article is to augment the ethical discussion among nurses with the findings from empirical research on autonomy of older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. There are many factors influencing autonomy. These include: health conditions, treatment, knowledge, experience and skills, personal approach as well as familial patterns, type of relationship, life history and social context. Fifteen older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus were interviewed in a nurse-led diabetes clinic. These participants perceive three processes which support autonomy in responsive relationships: preserving patterns of concern and interaction, nurturing collaborative responsibilities and being closely engaged in trustful and helpful family relations. People with diabetes realize autonomy in various responsive relationships in their unique life context. Next, we performed a literature review of care ethics and caring in nursing with regard to relational autonomy. We classified the literature in five strands of care: attitude-oriented, dialogue-oriented, activity-oriented, relationship-oriented and life-oriented. According to our respondents, autonomy in responsive relationships is fostered when patient, nurses, professionals of the health team and family members carry out care activities supported by a relational attitude of care. They can best realize autonomy in relationships with others when several essential aspects of care and caring are present in their lives. Therefore, we advocate a comprehensive approach to care and caring.
Caring activity; Caring attitude; Care ethics; Nurse-led clinic; Patient’s perspective; Relational autonomy; Responsive relationships; Type 2 diabetes mellitus
While certain substantial moral dilemmas in health care have been given much attention, like abortion, euthanasia or gene testing, doctors rarely reflect on the moral implications of their daily clinical work. Yet, with its aim to help patients and relieve suffering, medicine is replete with moral decisions. In this qualitative study we analyse how doctors handle the moral aspects of everyday clinical practice. About one hundred consultations were observed, and interviews conducted with fifteen clinical doctors from different practices. It turned out that the doctors’ approach to clinical cases followed a rather strict pattern across specialities, which implied transforming patients’ diverse concerns into specific medical questions through a process of ‘essentialising’: Doctors broke the patient’s story down, concretised the patient’s complaints and categorised the symptoms into a medical sense. Patients’ existential meanings were removed, and the focus placed on the patients’ functioning. By essentialising, doctors were able to handle a complex and ambiguous reality, and establish a medically relevant problem. However, the process involved a moral as well as a practical simplification. Overlooking existential meanings and focusing on purely functional aspects of patients was an integral part of clinical practice and not an individual flaw. The study thus questions the value of addressing doctors’ conscious moral evaluations. Yet doctors should be aware that their daily clinical work systematically emphasises beneficence at the expense of others—that might be more important to the patient.
Beneficence; Clinical decision-making; Dehumanising; Empirical research; Grounded theory; Medical ethics; Moral practice; Professional values; Qualitative