Bioethics in pluralistic societies

Med Health Care Philos. 2004;7(2):201-8. doi: 10.1023/b:mhep.0000034330.44606.9c.


Contemporary liberal democracies contain multiple cultural, religious, and philosophical traditions. Within these societies, different interpretive communities provide divergent models for understanding health, illness, and moral obligations. Bioethicists commonly draw upon models of moral reasoning that presume the existence of shared moral intuitions. Principlist bioethics, case-based models of moral deliberation, intuitionist frameworks, and cost-benefit analyses all emphasise the uniformity of moral reasoning. However, religious and cultural differences challenge assumptions about common modes of moral deliberation. Too often, bioethicists minimize or ignore the existence of multiple traditions of moral inquiry. Careful consideration of the presence of multiple horizons for moral deliberation generates challenging questions about the capacity of bioethicists to effectively resolve complex cases and social policy disputes.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Humans
  • Morals*