Logo of jmedethJournal of Medical EthicsVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Med Ethics. Oct 2003; 29(5): 269–274.
PMCID: PMC1733784

Methods and principles in biomedical ethics

Abstract

The four principles approach to medical ethics plus specification is used in this paper. Specification is defined as a process of reducing the indeterminateness of general norms to give them increased action guiding capacity, while retaining the moral commitments in the original norm. Since questions of method are central to the symposium, the paper begins with four observations about method in moral reasoning and case analysis. Three of the four scenarios are dealt with. It is concluded in the "standard" Jehovah's Witness case that having autonomously chosen the authority of his religious institution, a Jehovah's Witness has a reasonable basis on which to refuse a recommended blood transfusion. The author's view of the child of a Jehovah's Witness scenario is that it is morally required—not merely permitted—to overrule this parental refusal of treatment. It is argued in the selling kidneys for transplantation scenario that a fair system of regulating and monitoring would be better than the present system which the author believes to be a shameful failure.

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