Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 101–119 | Cite as

Accounting for context: Future directions in bioethics theory and research

  • Darleen Douglas-Steele
  • Edward M. Hundert


Many physicians have found that the traditional approach to bioethics fails to account for important aspects of their moral experience in practice. New approaches to bioethics theory are challenging the traditional application of universal moral principles based in liberal moral theory. At the same time, a shift in both the goals and methods of bioethics education has accompanied its “coming of age” in the medical school curriculum. Taken together, these changes challenge both bioethics educators and theorists to come closer to the details and nuances of real clinical encounters. The emerging trend emphasizes the importance of context in bioethics education and in the moral theory and research under-girding it. This article introduces one research approach examining the practical life contexts of medical students' ethical experiences and learning. It calls for increased attention to research and theory in bioethics that more adequately accounts for the ways different contexts produce significant changes in meaning and understanding in medical encounters.

Key words

bioethics bioethics education bioethics research context ethnomethodology meaning and understanding in medical encounters medical interviewing moral theory practical reasoning qualitative research 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Darleen Douglas-Steele
    • 1
  • Edward M. Hundert
    • 1
  1. 1.Office of Student Affairs and Department of PsychiatryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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