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Discourse ethics in practical medicine


Problems emerge in practical medicine because the binary ethics of the classic patient/doctor relationship has been replaced by multiagent interaction between those engaged in the process of diagnosis and treatment. New methods are required to deal with complex problems in every patient. Where and why the current practice can fail is illustrated with an example of an unspectacular routine case of cancer. The failure may result from basing the procedure on mechanistic methods or from the deficit and difficulty in communication. Whether rule based algorithms could have improved the treatment in the patient with cancer is discussed. How discourse ethics may fit better with the course of the case is described. Clinical Medicine follows a similar logic to that modelled by discursive ethics, ethics thinking should essentially contribute to the procedural logic of medical practice. Discourse ethics can be used as a procedural model that copes with the complexity and temporality of practical medicine. Applied discourse ethics can turn out to be both instrumental in mediating inherent conflicts and constitutive for value based problem solving in modern medical practice.

  • clinical medicine
  • rule based inference
  • discourse ethics
  • Juergen Habermas

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