Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 51–59 | Cite as

Interpretive bioethics: The way of discernment

  • Ronald A. Carson


This paper critically appraises the applied action-guide approach to bioethics and finds it wanting in two ways: it is tethered to a social contract view of the doctor-patient relationship that is largely incompatible with experiences of illness and care; and, as a formalist doctrine, it lacks critical edge and tends toward accommodationism. An alternative approach is recommended that involves interpreting moral experience by means once associated with the rhetorical arts — practical reasoning, hermeneutics, casuistry, and thick description.

Key words

bioethics casuistry hermeneutics practical reason thick description 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald A. Carson
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for the Medical HumanitiesThe University of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA

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