Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 51–58

Gender in medical ethics: Re-examining the conceptual basis of empirical research

  • Elisabeth Conradi
  • Nikola Biller-Andorno
  • Margarete Boos
  • Christina Sommer
  • Claudia Wiesemann


Conducting empirical research on gender in medical ethics is a challenge from a theoretical as well as a practical point of view. It still has to be clarified how gender aspects can be integrated without sustaining gender stereotypes. The developmental psychologist Carol Gilligan was among the first to question ethics from a gendered point of view. The notion of care introduced by her challenged conventional developmental psychology as well as moral philosophy. Gilligan was criticised, however, because her concept of ‘two different voices’ may reinforce gender stereotypes. Moreover, although Gilligan stressed relatedness, this is not reflected in her own empirical approach, which still focuses on individual moral reflection. Concepts from social psychology can help overcome both problems. Social categories like gender shape moral identity and moral decisions. If morality is understood as being lived through actions of persons in social relationships, gender becomes a helpful category of moral analysis. Our findings will provide a conceptual basis for the question how empirical research in medical ethics can successfully embrace a gendered perspective.

empirical research ethic of care gender Gilligan moral philosophy social psychology 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Conradi
    • 1
  • Nikola Biller-Andorno
    • 3
  • Margarete Boos
    • 4
  • Christina Sommer
    • 4
  • Claudia Wiesemann
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political SciencesUniversity of GöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Seminar für PolitikwissenschaftGeorg-August-Universität GöttigenGöttingen
  3. 3.Department of Medical Ethics and History of MedicineUniversity of GöttingenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Social Psychology and Communication StudiesUniversity of GöttingenGermany

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