From fact to recommendation: explicit value premises make the conclusion more convincing

J Intern Med. 2001 Feb;249(2):121-5. doi: 10.1046/j.0954-6820.2000.00774.x.


In this article we describe one way to use value premises, i.e. conceptions of what is right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust. They may, in combination with the results from surveys on attitudes, be used to defend normative conclusions, for example changes in professional guidelines. Several ethical principles may be relevant when discussing an end-of-life decision. We use the preferences of those involved in or affected by that decision (the principle of autonomy) and the obligation to maximize benefits and minimize harm (the principle of beneficence) as value premises. To illustrate the ethical, empirical and logical issues relevant to assess normative conclusions, we present a Swedish survey of the attitudes of health care workers and the general public. In this survey, the physicians stated that they do not want the family to be the sole decision-maker, whilst the public did not want the physician to be the sole decision-maker. As a third option we propose joint decision-making regarding end-of-life decisions. This normative conclusion may be rationally discussed, not only by questioning scientific aspects of the survey, but also by critically assessing value premises (autonomy and beneficence) and the logic of the argument.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Social Values*
  • Sweden
  • Terminal Care*