Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 343–352 | Cite as

Technological paternalism: On how medicine has reformed ethics and how technology can refine moral theory



The objective of this article is to investigate ethical aspects of technology through the moral term “paternalism”. The field of investigation is medicine. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, “paternalism” has gained moral relevance through modern medicine, where physicians have been accused of behaving paternalistic and threatening patients’ autonomy. Secondly, medicine is a brilliant area to scrutinise the evaluative aspects of technology. It is argued that paternalism is a morally relevant term for the ethics of technology, but that its traditional conception is not adequate to address the challenges of modern technology. A modification towards a “technological paternalism” is necessary. That is, “technological paternalism” is a fruitful term in the ethics of technology. Moreover, it is suited to point out the deficiencies of the traditional concept of paternalism and to reform and vitalise the conception of paternalism in ethics in order to handle the challenges of technology.


paternalism technology ethics medicine 


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Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for medical ethicsUniversity of OsloNorway

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