Avoiding the slippery slope in ethics and bioethics: 'ought' entails 'can' and vice versa

Nurs Inq. 1996 Dec;3(4):225-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1800.1996.tb00045.x.


This article addresses the slippery slope argument in ethics and bioethics, and demonstrates that a lack of consensus about human nature and what constitutes a person contributes to its frequent use in such areas. Rationality and autonomy are contrasted with sentence, and a utilitarian quality of life approach with a deontological sanctity of life approach as defining criteria of personhood. It is argued that the concept 'quality of life' is itself a slippery slope. Genetic engineering is discussed as a paradigm of the slippery slope argument in use, as well as IVF, and the distinction between experimental and therapeutic research-both issues of concern to feminists. Australia has been a leader of scientific research in the new reproductive technologies, with regulative thinking following the technological breakthroughs. The question is posed whether biotechnology will repeat a similar pattern.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics*
  • Female
  • Feminism*
  • Freedom
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Reproductive Techniques