Applied ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L005-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

7. Are there ethical experts?

Applied ethics does not involve a claim of moral expertise, but often involves collaboration with specialists in practical areas in order to arrive at policy decisions that allow ethical considerations a determining role.

There is now wide acceptance of the principle of ensuring that a philosophical or ethical viewpoint is represented in certain kinds of forums, such as public enquiries, the reports of legislative committees or commissions of inquiry, and hospital ethics committees. The USA has a President’s Commission to report directly on bioethical issues to the US President, the UK has a National Bioethics Committee funded independently of government, while in France there is a French National Committee on Ethical Affairs in Public Debate. In 1985, the Council of Europe created a multidisciplinary body with experts appointed by each member country, now called the Comité Directeur de Bioéthique (CDBI). Canada set up a Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, and the European Parliament commissions advice on scientific and technological policy options. Other countries are following a similar pattern. In addition, the Council of Europe in 1990 began working on a European Convention on biomedical ethics, which would be a legally binding instrument on all countries signing it, the object being ultimately to harmonize European legislation.

Individuals are also used as consultants on public policy issues. In Europe, Jonathan Glover, in collaboration with nationals of other European countries, produced a report on fertility and the family for the European Commission (1989), while Will Kymlicka has advised on this topic as a member of the Canadian Royal Commission and, in the USA, Arthur Caplan was a member of the President’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform. In Britain, the philosopher Mary Warnock(1985) was responsible for official reports on the educational needs of children with disabilities and learning difficulties, and on new developments in reproductive medicine and embryology; Bernard Williams (1979) played a similar role in relation to pornography and censorship. The debate about euthanasia in the Netherlands has engaged philosophers, lawyers, and social theorists. Less happily, a visit by Peter Singer to Germany provoked widespread protest related to the debate on euthanasia and has led to the unpopularity of bioethics in some circles, and a general and unjustified rejection of applied ethics.

Some achievements in these areas may also be recorded; examination of the ethics of clinical trials, for example, particularly in relation to AIDS, led to a total reconceptualization of what clinical trials require, and to a multi-choice system being devised which is both scientifically acceptable and also allows a more acceptable level of choice to patients and physicians.

Citing this article:
Almond, Brenda. Are there ethical experts?. Applied ethics, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L005-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles