The Diversity of Responsibility: The Value of Explication and Pluralization
Although the term “responsibility” plays a central role in bioethics and public health, its meaning and implications are often unclear. This paper defends the importance of a more systematic conception of responsibility to improve moral philosophical as well as descriptive analysis.
We start with a formal analysis of the relational conception of responsibility and its meta-ethical presuppositions. In a brief historical overview, we compare global-collective, professional, personal, and social responsibility. The value of our analytical matrix is illustrated by sorting out the plurality of responsibility models in three cases (organ transplantation, advance directives, and genetic testing).
Responsibility is a relational term involving at least seven relata. The analysis of the relata allows distinguishing between individual versus collective agency, retrospective versus prospective direction, and liability versus power relations. Various bioethical ambiguities result from insufficient, implicit, or inappropriate ascriptions of responsibility.
A systematic conception of responsibility is an important tool for bioethical reflection. It allows an in-depth understanding and critique of moral claims on a meta-ethical level without presuming one particular normative approach. Considering the concept of responsibility can also help to complement the current bioethical focus on individual autonomy by including the perspectives of other actors, such as family members or social groups.
- Arribas-Ayllon, Michael, Srikant Sarangi, and Angus Clarke. 2008. Managing self-responsibility through other-oriented blame: Family accounts of genetic testing. Social Science and Medicine 66: 1521–1532. CrossRef
- Arribas-Ayllon, Michael, Katie Featherstone, and Paul Atkinson. 2011. The practical ethics of genetic responsibility: Non-disclosure and the autonomy of affect. Social Theory & Health 9: 3–23. CrossRef
- Baier, Kurt. 1991. Types of responsibility. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 117–122. New York: St. Martins Press.
- Bayertz, Kurt. 1995. Eine kurze Geschichte der Herkunft der Verantwortung. In Verantwortung. Prinzip oder problem?, ed. Kurt Bayertz, 1–72. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
- Beauchamp, Tom L., and James F. Childress. 2009. Principles of biomedical ethics (6th ed). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Berg, Paul, David Baltimore, Sydney Brenner, R.O. Robin III, and Maxine Singer. 1975. Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA molecules. Science 188: 991–995. CrossRef
- Bradley, Francis Herbert. 1991. The vulgar notion of responsibility. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 62–74. New York: St Martins Press.
- Bundesärztekammer. 2011. Grundsätze der Bundesärztekammer zur ärztlichen Sterbebegleitung. Deutsches Ärzteblatt 108: 346–348.
- Callahan, Daniel. 1994. Bioethics: Private choice and common good. The Hastings Center Report 24: 28–31. CrossRef
- Callahan, Daniel, Peter Singer, and Ruth Chadwick (eds.). 1997. Encyclopedia of applied ethics. San Diego: Academic Press.
- Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 2006. Roadmap to medicaid reform: New options to improve and expand insurance coverage for acute care needs. https://www.cms.gov/smdl/downloads/Rvltcneeds.pdf. Accessed on 1 Nov 2011
- Chadwick, Ruth. 2009. The right to know and the right not to know. Ten years on. In Disclosure dilemmas. Ethics of genetic prognosis after the “right to know/not to know” debate, ed. Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, and Hansjakob Müller, 9–18. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Company.
- Cooper, David E. 1991. Collective responsibility. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 255–264. New York: St Martins Press.
- Feinberg, Joel. 1991. The moral and legal responsibility of the bad samaritan. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 148–169. New York: St Martins Press.
- French, Peter A. (ed.). 1991a. The spectrum of responsibility. New York: St Martins Press.
- French, Peter A. 1991b. The corporation as a moral person. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 290–304. New York: St Martins Press.
- French, Peter A. 1991c. Fishing the red herrings out of the sea of moral responsibility. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 129–144. New York: St Martins Press.
- French, Peter A. 1991d. Types and principles of responsibility. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 113–116. New York: St Martins Press.
- Gauthier, Candace Cummins. 2002. The virtue of moral responsibility in healthcare decisionmaking. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 11: 273–281. CrossRef
- Gaylin, Willard, and Bruce Jennings. 1996. The perversion of autonomy. New York: Free Press.
- Hart, Herbert Lionel Adolphus. 1968. Legal responsibility and excuses. In Punishment and responsibility: Essays in the philosophy of law, 28–53. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Held, Virginia. 1991. Can a random collection of individuals be morally responsible? In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 265–274. New York: St Martins Press.
- Held, Virginia. 2006. The ethics of care. Personal, political, and global. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Hilbert, Anja. 2008. Adipositasprävention: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Eigenverantwortung. In Gewichtige gene. Adipositas zwischen Prädisposition und Eigenverantwortung, ed. Anja Hilbert, Winfried Rief, and Peter Dabrock, 29–45. Bern: Verlag Hans Huber.
- Hildt, Elisabeth. 2009. Predictive genetic testing, autonomy and responsibility for future health. Medicine Studies 1: 143–153. CrossRef
- Holl, Jann, Hans Lenk, and Matthias Maring. 2001. Verantwortung. In Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 566–670, Basel: Schwabe.
- Ladd, John. 1991. Corporativism. In The spectrum of responsibility, ed. Peter A. French, 305–312. New York: St Martins Press.
- Lemke, Thomas. 2006. Genetic responsibility and neo-liberal governmentality: Medical diagnosis as moral technology. In Michel Foucault and power today. International multidisciplinary studies in the history of the present, ed. Alain Beaulieu, and David A. Gabbard, 83–91. Oxford: Lexington Books.
- Lipkin, Mack Jr., and Peter T. Rowley (eds.). 1974. Genetic responsibility: On choosing our childrens’ genes. New York: Plenum Press.
- Novas, Carlos, and Nikolas Rose. 2000. Genetic risk and the birth of the somatic individual. Economy and Society 29: 485–513. CrossRef
- Raz, Aviad, and Marcela Atar. 2003. Nondirectiveness and its lay interpretations: The effect of counseling style, ethnicity and culture on attitudes towards genetic counseling among Jewish and Bedouin respondents in Israel. Journal of Genetic Counseling 12: 313–332. CrossRef
- Raz, Aviad, and Silke Schicktanz. 2009. Lay perceptions of genetic testing in Germany and Israel: The interplay of national culture and individual experience. New Genetics and Society 28: 401–414. CrossRef
- Ropohl, Günther. 1996. Ethik und Technikbewertung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
- Scully, Jackie L. 2008. Disability bioethics: Moral bodies, moral differences. Plymouth: Rowmann & Littlefield.
- Smith, George Davey, Sarah Ebrahim, Shah Lewis, Anna L. Hansell, Lyle J. Palmer, and Paul R. Burton. 2005. Genetic epidemiology and public health: Hope, hype, and future prospects. Lancet 366: 1484–1498. CrossRef
- Strydom, Piet. 1999. The challenge of responsibility for sociology. Current Sociology 47: 65–82. CrossRef
- Srinivasan, Sandhya, and Bebe Loff. 2006. Medical research in India. Lancet 367: 1962–1964. CrossRef
- Tandon, P.A. 2005. Bioethics: An emerging discipline. Indian Journal of Medical Research 121(1): 1–4.
- Tauber, Alfred I. 2005. Patient autonomy and the ethics of responsibility. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Ter Meulen, Ruud, and Fabrice Jotterand. 2008. Individual responsibility and solidarity in European health care: Further down the road to two-tier system of health care. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 33: 191–197. CrossRef
- Tonry, Michael (ed.). 2011. Why punish? How much? A reader on punishment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Turoldo, Farbrizio. 2009. Responsibility as a framework for public health interventions. American Journal of Public Health 99: 1197–1202. CrossRef
- Turoldo, Fabrizio, and Y. Michael Barilan. 2007. The concept of responsibility: Three stages in its evolution within bioethics. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 17: 114–123.
- Unesco. 2005. Universal declaration on bioethics and human rights. (Adopted by acclamation on 19 October by the 33rd session of the General Conference of UNESCO).
- Veatch, Robert M. 1980. Voluntary risks to health. JAMA 43: 50–55. CrossRef
- Warren, Mary Anne. 2000. Moral status—obligations to persons and other living things. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Werner, Micha H. 2002. Verantwortung. In Handbuch ethik, ed. Marcus Düwell, Christoph Hübenthal, and Micha H. Werner, 521–527. Stuttgart: Metzler.
- Williams, John R. 2009. Medical ethics manual. World Medical Assembly: Ferney-Voltaire Cedex.
- Yoder, Scot D. 2002. Individual responsibility for health. Decision, not discovery. The Hastings Center Report 32: 22–31. CrossRef
- Young, Iris Marie. 2011. Responsibility for justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossRef
- The Diversity of Responsibility: The Value of Explication and Pluralization
- Open Access
- Available under Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Volume 3, Issue 3 , pp 131-145
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer Netherlands
- Additional Links
- Applied ethics
- Organ transplantation
- Advance directives
- Genetic testing
- Personal versus social responsibility
- Professional responsibility