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Expertise and Autonomy in Medical Decision Making

Written by Rebecca Brown.

This is the fourth in a series of blogposts by the members of the Expanding Autonomy project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

This blog is based on a paper forthcoming in Episteme. The full text is available here.

Imagine you are sick with severe headaches, dizziness and a nasty cough. You go to see a doctor. She tells you you have a disease called maladitis and it is treatable with a drug called anti-mal. If you take anti-mal every day for a week the symptoms of maladitis should resolve completely. If you don’t treat the maladitis, you will continue to experience your symptoms for a number of weeks, though it should resolve eventually. In a small number of cases, maladitis can become chronic. She also tells you about some side-effects of anti-mal: it can cause nausea, fatigue and an itchy rash. But since these are generally mild and temporary, your doctor suggests that they are worth risking in order to treat your maladitis. You have no medical training and have never heard of maladitis or anti-mal before. What should you do?

One option is that you a) form the belief that you have maladitis and b) take the anti-mal to treat it. Your doctor, after all, has relevant training and expertise in this area, and she believes that you have maladitis and should take anti-mal.Read More »Expertise and Autonomy in Medical Decision Making

Epistemic Diligence and Honesty

Written by Rebecca Brown

All else being equal, it is morally good for agents to be honest. That is, agents shouldn’t, without good reason, engage in non-honest behaviours such as lying, cheating or stealing. What counts as a ‘good reason’ will vary depending on your preferred ethical theory. For instance, Kant (in)famously insisted that even if a murderer is at the door seeking out their victim you mustn’t lie to them in order to protect the victim’s life. A rule utilitarian, in contrast, might endorse lies that can generally be expected to maximise expected utility (including, presumably, lying to murderers about the whereabouts of their intended victims).

What will actually count as being dishonest will vary depending on your preferred conception of honesty. If honesty has very extensive requirements, failure to volunteer relevant information when you know someone would find it useful might be a failure of honesty. On a narrower account, perhaps even ‘paltering’ – misleading by telling the truth – might not count as dishonest so long as what the agent says is technically true.Read More »Epistemic Diligence and Honesty

Can We Trust Research in Science and Medicine?

By Brian D. Earp  (@briandavidearp) Readers of the Practical Ethics Blog might be interested in this series of short videos in which I discuss some of the major ongoing problems with research ethics and publication integrity in science and medicine. How much of the published literature is trustworthy? Why is peer review such a poor quality control mechanism? How can we… Read More »Can We Trust Research in Science and Medicine?