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Contributions Of Philosophy To Medical Practice And Policy

2070 words - 9 pages

Considering the plethora of moral situations the medical field presents, there is a large intuitive appeal towards the association between philosophical ethics and medicine. The American philosophers Jonathan D. Moreno and Dan W. Brock both argue very similarly that while there is some benefit to be gained in the union of philosophy, medical practice, and policy-making, there are a variety of issues that have a strong tendency to arise. I will discuss particularly about the philosopher’s lack of credible standing in the field resulting from the obscurity of their apparent role in addition to what appears to be a disconnect between the world of academia and the hard reality of the situation. ...view middle of the document...

In other words, the academic nature of the philosopher requires that all possibilities and facets of the “truth” be considered, and to effectively achieve it one must detach themselves from the current situation so distractions from the “truth” may be kept to a minimum; the policy-maker and the health care provider, on the other hand, cannot do that because in doing so they may become ignorant of the social consequences that result from their decisions based on such “truth” (Brock 1987/2006). Often, these fundamentally different demands are at odds with one another, and as a result the philosopher in such a position frequently faces an inner struggle between their academic search for the truth and the social consequences of the solutions they may determine to be the morally correct one—but to choose a solution that favors one at the sacrifice of the other is to be contradictory in their duties for either role.
This dilemma is closely related to the lack of clarity in the precise role the philosopher is to play in making these important decisions. Intuitively, it can be thought that the philosopher’s role is that of a moral guide or critic that prompts us to think critically about the morality of the situation at hand. However, Moreno argues that this notion is misguided; if we were to say that this is truly the philosopher’s place in making decisions about medical practice and policy, they would not be welcome for long because they are simply being critics—criticizing something does not necessarily equate to getting things done. And in many situations in medicine, we are presented with a variety of solutions that appear to be equally moral; if all options have similar weight, then it may well be that there is no single solution that would leave everyone better off, morally or otherwise. In this sense, the work of the philosopher may be thought of as arbitrary, as one could pick a single solution at random and be “fine” (Moreno 1991/2006). If all morally relevant points appear to be equal in weight, then there is no way for a moral “guide” to point us to a single “right” solution.
Despite these issues, however, it is not to say that the philosopher is totally out of place because of these problems. If we take these issues at face value, it could be said that neither of the possible inferred conclusions that the role of the philosopher is negligible or that the “truth” and social consequences must always be at odds with each other bodes well with intuition. Instead, Moreno (1991/2006) states that the role of the philosopher in medical practice and policy-making is to “assume a role in the ‘political’ processes that are an essential part of the management of rivalries among communal values”. Rather, the philosopher’s wide consideration of a nearly infinite web of possible “truths” may well be their greatest strength and source of contribution to medicine and policy-making. The success in this application is evidenced by the leaps and bounds it has...

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