Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics

Living Edition
| Editors: Henk ten Have

Precautionary Principle

  • Christian MuntheEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_344-1


Precautionary reasoning has deep historical and wide cross-cultural roots in the ethics of health, health care, and medical research. As in general ethics, however, this side of bioethical thinking has not been the subject of focused critical analysis until recently. The emergence of the precautionary principle (PP) in general environmental and technology policy debate has, after an initial period of confusion, resulted in a range of possible ideas about the value of precaution and what sacrifices it may be worth. This has indicated some need for developments in ethical as well as decision theory. In bioethical debates, this process has left only vague traces, however. Although many issues exist where precautionary reasoning has a place, this is either often left unnoticed or arguments developed suffer from elementary flaws. Environmental and general public health ethics, the ethics of evidence-based practice in research, as well as clinical decision-making, management of normative or factual uncertainty, and the nature of clinical ethical virtues are all areas where precautionary ideas seem to have a place. Such reasoning moreover has specific relevance for global approaches to bioethics and health policy issues in a number of ways.


Clinical research Decision-making Decision theory Emerging technology Environmental health Evidence Ignorance Risk assessment Technology assessment Uncertainty 
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Further Readings

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Linguistics & Theory of ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden