Bioethics as methodological case resolution: specification, specified principlism and casuistry

J Med Philos. 2000 Jun;25(3):271-84. doi: 10.1076/0360-5310(200006)25:3;1-H;FT271.


Bioethical decision-making depends on presuppositions about the function and goal of bioethics. The authors in this issue of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy share the assumption that bioethics is about resolving cases, not about moral theory, and that the best method of bioethical decision-making is that which produces useful answers. Because we have no universally agreed upon background moral theory which can serve as the basis for bioethical decision-making, they try to move bioethics away from theory. For them, a good method of bioethical decision-making is one which resolves cases in ways that are justifiable to the parties involved, not necessarily in ways that bring us "close" to the right and the true. The authors consider how the move away from theory and toward actual cases is best accomplished. In particular, the debate in this issue is about specification, specified principlism, and casuistry.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics*
  • Decision Making
  • Ethical Analysis*
  • Ethics*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Philosophy*
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Principle-Based Ethics*