Ethical Imagination: Broadening Laboratory Deliberations

  • Simone van der BurgEmail author
Part of the The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology book series (ELTE, volume 5)


Usually ethicists pass judgment on a technology when it is already developed and ready to be put on the market. But at that point it is often too late to alter anything about it. Ethicists who are embedded during the research-phase into a technology are in a better position to negotiate such changes. However, there is no fully developed method available for the work of ethicists who are embedded in a scientific engineering context. This paper makes suggestions as to how such a method could take shape, which is illustrated by a concrete case-study which focuses on research into an acousto-optic monitoring device that is intended for the non-invasive monitoring of chemical substances in the blood, such as oxygen, glucose and cholesterol. With this case-study this article aims to show that it is fruitful for ethicists to engage in an imaginative anticipation of the effects that this technology could have on the quality of human (social) life and converse about those views with scientific engineers. The case-study pays special attention to the way in which this technology could affect the emotions of people, and how the concept of “the quality of life” relates to “risk”.


Skin Colour Pulse Oximeter Dark Skin Skin Tone Scientific Engineer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



With thanks to Sabine Roeser for the invitation to contribute to this book, as well as for her comments on the first draft of this article. I am also thankful to the Biophysical Engineering Group at the University of Twente for their generous and open cooperation with the embedded ethical research that lead to this article, and to the volunteers from the Diabetes Association Netherlands (Diabetesvereniging Nederland) who participated in the focus group. I also want to thank Rob Kooyman for his comments on an earlier version of this article. Finally I would like to thank NWO for funding the embedded ethical research that resulted in this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentTwente UniversityEnschedeThe Netherlands

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