Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 65–74 | Cite as

Casuistry and clinical ethics

  • Albert R. Jonsen


For the last century, moral philosophy has stressed theory for the analysis of moral argument and concepts. In the last decade, interest in the ethical issues of health care has stimulated attention to cases and particular instances. This has revealed the gap between ethical theory and practice. This article reviews the history and method of casuistry which for many centuries provided an approach to practical ethics. Its strengths and weaknesses are noted and its potential for contemporary use explored.

Key words

Casuistry Clinical ethics Case study Practical ethics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Aristotle: 1941, The Rhetoric, R. McKeon (trans.), Random House, New York.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Cicero: 1949, De Inventione, H. M. Hubbell (trans.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, I, 33–44.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Hare, R. M.: 1981, Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method and Point, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 5.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Jonsen, A. R.: 1980, ‘Can an ethicist be a consultant?’, in V. Abernathy (ed.), Frontiers in Medical Ethics, Ballinger, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Jonsen, A. R., Siegler, M., Winslade, W.: 1982, Clinical Ethics, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Kirk, K.: 1927, Conscience and Its Problems, Longman's Green, London.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    National Commission for Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research: 1977, Research Involving Children, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    National Commission for Protection of Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research: 1978, The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Pascal, B.: 1956, The Provincial Letters, A. J. Krailsheimer (trans.), Penguin Books, Baltimore.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Ramsey, P.: 1970, The Patient As Person, Yale University press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    Russell, B.: 1979, ‘On the presumption against taking life’; Tramell, R.: ‘On the non-equivalency of saving life and not taking life’; Menzel, P.: ‘Are killing and letting die morally different in medical contexts’, all in Journal of Philosophy and Medicine 4.Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    Self, D. J.: 1979, ‘Philosophical foundation of various approaches to medical ethical decision making’, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 4, 20–31.Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    Siegler, M.: 1978, ‘Teaching clinical ethics at the bedside’, New England Journal of Medicine 239, 951–955.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    Sidgwick, H.: 1874, The Methods of Ethics, Macmillan, London.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    Thomasma, D. C.: 1979, ‘Medical ethics teaching’, Journal of Medical Education 54, 898–904.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Warnock, G. J.: 1967, Contemporary Moral Philosophy, St. Martin's Press, New York.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    Whewell, W.: 1852, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England, John Parker, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert R. Jonsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medicine, School of MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations