Debating ethical expertise

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2008 Jun;18(2):173-92. doi: 10.1353/ken.0.0010.


This paper explores the relevance of the debate about ethical expertise for the practice of clinical ethics. We present definitions, explain three theories of ethical expertise, and identify arguments that have been brought up to either support the concept of ethical expertise or call it into question. Finally, we discuss four theses: the debate is relevant for the practice of clinical ethics in that it (1) improves and specifies clinical ethicists' perception of their expertise; (2) contributes to improving the perception of moral competence of non-ethicists; (3) gives insight into complementary styles of argumentation of ethicists and non-ethicists; and (4) contributes to the awareness of the problem of profession-building of (clinical) ethicists.

MeSH terms

  • Ethical Theory
  • Ethicists / standards*
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Humans
  • Professional Competence*
  • Professional Role*