Common morality, coherence, and the principles of biomedical ethics

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2003 Sep;13(3):219-30. doi: 10.1353/ken.2003.0020.


The fifth edition of Beauchamp and Childress's Principles of Biomedical Ethics is distinguished by its emphatic embrace of common morality as the ultimate source of moral norms. This essay critically evaluates the fifth edition's discussion of common morality and, to a lesser extent, its treatment of coherence (both the model of ethical justification and the associated concept). It is argued that the book is overly accommodating of existing moral beliefs. The paper concludes with three suggestions for improving this leading text.

MeSH terms

  • Beneficence
  • Bioethics*
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Ethical Theory*
  • Morals*
  • Principle-Based Ethics*
  • Social Justice