ethical theory


Summary: A philosophically coherent set of propositions (for example, utilitarianism) which attempts to provide general norms for the guidance and evaluation of moral conduct. (from Beauchamp and Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 4th ed)

Top Publications

  1. Frith L. Symbiotic empirical ethics: a practical methodology. Bioethics. 2012;26:198-206 pubmed publisher
    ..This methodology will be based on a naturalistic conception of ethical theory that sees practice as informing theory just as theory informs practice - the two are symbiotically related...
  2. Navarrete C, McDonald M, Mott M, Asher B. Virtual morality: emotion and action in a simulated three-dimensional "trolley problem". Emotion. 2012;12:364-70 pubmed publisher
    ..This pattern of results held across individuals of different gender, age, and race. ..
  3. Koenigs M, Kruepke M, Zeier J, Newman J. Utilitarian moral judgment in psychopathy. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2012;7:708-14 pubmed publisher
    ..These results provide novel laboratory evidence of abnormal moral judgment in psychopaths, as well as additional support for the importance of considering psychopathic subtypes. ..
  4. Bartels D, Pizarro D. The mismeasure of morals: antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. Cognition. 2011;121:154-61 pubmed publisher
  5. Moll J, de Oliveira Souza R. Moral judgments, emotions and the utilitarian brain. Trends Cogn Sci. 2007;11:319-21 pubmed
    ..A new study on patients with prefrontal damage provides key insights on the neurobiology of moral judgment and raises new questions on the mechanisms by which reason and emotion contribute to moral cognition. ..
  6. Holland S. Scepticism about the virtue ethics approach to nursing ethics. Nurs Philos. 2010;11:151-8 pubmed publisher
    ..The upshot is that virtue ethics is best left where it belongs - in personal moral life, not professional ethics - and nursing ethics is best done by taking other approaches. ..
  7. Abma T, Baur V, Molewijk B, Widdershoven G. Inter-ethics: towards an interactive and interdependent bioethics. Bioethics. 2010;24:242-55 pubmed publisher
    ..In order to illustrate this new approach, we present a case study. It concerns a project focusing on an innovation in elderly care, based on the participation of various stakeholders, especially older people themselves. ..
  8. Hurst S. What 'empirical turn in bioethics'?. Bioethics. 2010;24:439-44 pubmed publisher
  9. Widdershoven G, Abma T, Molewijk B. Empirical ethics as dialogical practice. Bioethics. 2009;23:236-48 pubmed publisher
    ..empirical ethics may give rise to questions such as: What contribution does the ethicist make? What role does ethical theory play? What is the relationship between empirical research and ethical theory in the dialogical process? In ..

More Information


  1. Conway P, Gawronski B. Deontological and utilitarian inclinations in moral decision making: a process dissociation approach. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013;104:216-35 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings provide evidence for the independent contributions of deontological and utilitarian inclinations to moral judgments, resolving many theoretical ambiguities implied by previous research. ..
  2. Ives J, Dunn M. Who's arguing? A call for reflexivity in bioethics. Bioethics. 2010;24:256-65 pubmed publisher
  3. Leget C, Borry P, de Vries R. 'Nobody tosses a dwarf!' The relation between the empirical and the normative reexamined. Bioethics. 2009;23:226-35 pubmed publisher
    ..In each stage, we explore the perspective from both the empirical (sociological) and the normative ethical point of view. We conclude by applying our five-stage critical applied ethics to the example of dwarf tossing. ..
  4. de Vries R, Gordijn B. Empirical ethics and its alleged meta-ethical fallacies. Bioethics. 2009;23:193-201 pubmed publisher
    ..Moreover, it answers the question of whether empirical ethics (necessarily) commits these three basic meta-ethical fallacies. ..
  5. Molewijk B, Stiggelbout A, Otten W, Dupuis H, Kievit J. Empirical data and moral theory. A plea for integrated empirical ethics. Med Health Care Philos. 2004;7:55-69 pubmed
    ..The paper ends with three suggestions for consideration on some of the future challenges of integrated empirical ethics. ..
  6. Beauchamp T. A defense of the common morality. Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2003;13:259-74 pubmed
  7. Molewijk B. Integrated empirical ethics: in search for clarifying identities. Med Health Care Philos. 2004;7:85-7; discussion 89-91 pubmed
  8. Musschenga A. Empirical ethics, context-sensitivity, and contextualism. J Med Philos. 2005;30:467-90 pubmed
    ..But context-sensitivity is a goal that can be aimed for from any meta-ethical position. ..
  9. Ebbesen M, Pedersen B. Using empirical research to formulate normative ethical principles in biomedicine. Med Health Care Philos. 2007;10:33-48 pubmed
    ..We also show how to use existing bioethical principles as inspiration for interpreting the empirical findings of qualitative studies. This may help researchers design their own empirical studies in the field of ethics. ..
  10. Benatar D. Moral theories may have some role in teaching applied ethics. J Med Ethics. 2007;33:671-2 pubmed
    ..The conclusion is not that moral theory must be taught, but rather that there is more to be said for it than Dr Lawlor's arguments reveal. ..
  11. Byers P. Dependence and a Kantian conception of dignity as a value. Theor Med Bioeth. 2016;37:61-9 pubmed publisher
    ..Drawing on this work, the article argues that the conceptual distinction between dignity and autonomy as values is indispensable in the context of considering our obligations to those who are dependent and vulnerable. ..
  12. Mallia P. Is there a Mediterranean bioethics?. Med Health Care Philos. 2012;15:419-29 pubmed publisher
    ..It then analyses the need for having a Mediterranean approach to bioethical issues. ..
  13. Veatch R. Hippocratic, religious, and secular ethics: the points of conflict. Theor Med Bioeth. 2012;33:33-43 pubmed publisher
    ..Their legitimacy and usefulness within the profession are questioned and an alternative ethical source is suggested. This source relies on a commonly shared, naturally knowable set of principles known as common morality. ..
  14. Rennie S. Viewing research participation as a moral obligation: in whose interests?. Hastings Cent Rep. 2011;41:40-7 pubmed
    ..Recasting research participation in this way would have global ramifications, however. Who ultimately stands to gain the most from it, and who has the most to lose? ..
  15. Berger J. Pandemic preparedness planning: will provisions for involuntary termination of life support invite active euthanasia?. J Clin Ethics. 2010;21:308-11 pubmed
  16. Herrmann T, Schüttler E, Benavides P, Gálvez N, Sohn L, Palomo N. Values, animal symbolism, and human-animal relationships associated to two threatened felids in Mapuche and Chilean local narratives. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013;9:41 pubmed publisher
    ..This study aimed at understanding values and human-animal relationships with negatively perceived threatened carnivores through the disclosure of local stories and Mapuche traditional folktales...
  17. Tobler P, Kalis A, Kalenscher T. The role of moral utility in decision making: an interdisciplinary framework. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2008;8:390-401 pubmed publisher
    ..In conclusion, we suggest that moral capabilities can employ and benefit from a variety of nonmoral decision-making and learning mechanisms. ..
  18. Ives J, Draper H. Appropriate methodologies for empirical bioethics: it's all relative. Bioethics. 2009;23:249-58 pubmed publisher
  19. Saunders J. Bringing back Aristotle. Indian J Med Ethics. 2011;8:230-3 pubmed
    ..By contrast, consideration of the virtues emphasises the importance of the moral agent. A renewed emphasis on virtue ethics, not as a rival, but integrated into deontological ethics is proposed. ..
  20. Hwang W. Philosophical and ethical perspectives on cardiovascular disease risk in low-wage workers. Public Health Nurs. 2011;28:168-75 pubmed publisher
  21. Engelhardt H. Confronting moral pluralism in posttraditional Western societies: bioethics critically reassessed. J Med Philos. 2011;36:243-60 pubmed publisher
    ..However, understanding this is only possible when one understands the history, genesis, and foundations of bioethics and its inability to provide a resolution to postmodern moral pluralism. ..
  22. Woodward J, Allman J. Moral intuition: its neural substrates and normative significance. J Physiol Paris. 2007;101:179-202 pubmed publisher
    ..Understanding the role of these structures undercuts many philosophical doctrines concerning the status of moral intuitions, but vindicates the claim that they can sometimes play a legitimate role in moral decision-making. ..
  23. Thompson P. Agrarian philosophy and ecological ethics. Sci Eng Ethics. 2008;14:527-44 pubmed publisher
    ..As such, reaching back to the agrarian tradition may provide a way to move forward with both virtue oriented themes as well as pragmatist themes in developing ecological ethics. ..
  24. Häyry M. Presidential address: The ethics of recognition, responsibility, and respect. Bioethics. 2009;23:483-5 pubmed publisher
    ..In this paper, I will study the sources and aims of ethics and suggest a code of conduct for bioethicists based on recognition, responsibility, and respect. ..
  25. Brunet L, Kunstmann J. Gamete donation in France: the future of the anonymity doctrine. Med Health Care Philos. 2013;16:69-81 pubmed publisher
    ..Finally, we shall examine two possible outcomes of the debate, highlighting their respective legitimacy as well as their consequences, as far as the rights of children, the notion of the family, and medical practice are concerned. ..
  26. Manninen B. Rethinking Roe v. Wade: defending the abortion right in the face of contemporary opposition. Am J Bioeth. 2010;10:33-46 pubmed publisher
    ..Her argument is especially strong when one considers that her central thesis-that one person's right to life does not entail the right to use another's person's body for continued sustenance-is pervasive in legal policies in the U.S.A. ..
  27. Joly C, Ghazi Elie E, Maillet E, Hannequin D, Guédon E. [Refractory sufferings at the end of life: Which considerations, which propositions?]. Presse Med. 2011;40:341-8 pubmed publisher
    ..Recommendations from medical societies specify the means of implementation: obtaining other medical opinions, the patient's informed consent and full transparency of the decision (noted in the patient's medical chart). ..
  28. Lachman V. Whistleblowers: troublemakers or virtuous nurses?. Medsurg Nurs. 2008;17:126-8, 134 pubmed
  29. Havstad J. Human reproductive cloning: a conflict of liberties. Bioethics. 2010;24:71-7 pubmed publisher
  30. Miziara I, Miziara C. Moral consensus theory: paradigm cases of abortion and orthothanasia in Brazil. Indian J Med Ethics. 2013;10:58-61 pubmed
    ..The legalisation of orthothanasia in Brazil is one example of how this theory of moral consensus might operate. On the other hand, the legal battle on abortion illustrates how the law cannot change without such a moral consensus. ..
  31. Fox D. Retracing liberalism and remaking nature: designer children, research embryos, and featherless chickens. Bioethics. 2010;24:170-8 pubmed publisher
    ..I conclude that liberal theory is incapable of furnishing a coherent or desirable account to govern the way we use our emerging powers of biotechnology. ..
  32. Taylor P. Innovation incentives or corrupt conflicts of interest? Moving beyond Jekyll and Hyde in regulating biomedical academic-industry relationships. Yale J Health Policy Law Ethics. 2013;13:135-97 pubmed
  33. Gordon C, Zimmerman A. Fair shares: a preliminary framework and case analyzing the ethics of offshoring. Sci Eng Ethics. 2010;16:325-53 pubmed publisher
    ..The paper concludes with suggestions for further research. ..
  34. Larijani B, Zahedi F. Contemporary medical ethics: an overview from Iran. Dev World Bioeth. 2008;8:192-6 pubmed publisher
    ..This paper will discuss these issues, along with the production, in 2005, of the Specific National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research. ..
  35. Crigger N. Towards understanding the nature of conflict of interest and its application to the discipline of nursing. Nurs Philos. 2009;10:253-62 pubmed publisher
    ..Improving nurses' and professional organizations' awareness of COI and sharpening our ability to respond appropriately when COI arise can reduce potential harm and promote trust in those whom we serve. ..
  36. Kleingeld P. Kant on historiography and the use of regulative ideas. Stud Hist Philos Sci. 2008;39:523-8 pubmed
    ..Kant's methodological analysis should be distinguished from the specific teleological model of history he developed on its basis, however, because this model can no longer be appropriated for current purposes. ..
  37. Bryan C. The seven basic virtues in medicine: V. Faith. J S C Med Assoc. 2006;102:348-9 pubmed
  38. Fiester A. Ill-placed democracy: ethics consultations and the moral status of voting. J Clin Ethics. 2011;22:363-72 pubmed
    ..In contrast to the standard approach of adjudicating between moral claims, I argue that ECSs can best resolve aporetic conflict through the process of clinical ethics mediation. ..
  39. Nichols P. Wide reflective equilibrium as a method of justification in bioethics. Theor Med Bioeth. 2012;33:325-41 pubmed publisher
  40. Leeb C. The concept of animal welfare at the interface between producers and scientists: the example of organic pig farming. Acta Biotheor. 2011;59:173-83 pubmed publisher
    ..It appeared that next to problem structuring, multidisciplinary problem solving demands good communications skills to relate animal welfare science to value reflections. ..
  41. Muirhead W. When four principles are too many: bloodgate, integrity and an action-guiding model of ethical decision making in clinical practice. J Med Ethics. 2012;38:195-6 pubmed publisher
    ..An alternative model is proposed for decision making in the realm of clinical ethics. ..
  42. Bryan C, Call T, Elliott K. The ethics of infection control: philosophical frameworks. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2007;28:1077-84 pubmed
    ..Brief discussions of 15 consecutive cases illustrate the extent to which the daily practice of infection control poses problems heavily freighted with ethical overtones. ..
  43. Pols J. Towards an empirical ethics in care: relations with technologies in health care. Med Health Care Philos. 2015;18:81-90 pubmed publisher
  44. Ortiz Llueca E. [Personalist bioethics and utilitarian bioethics]. Cuad Bioet. 2013;24:57-65 pubmed
    ..g., the difficulties of the utilitarian commitment with instrumentalism, the deficiency of an utilitarian moral psychology and the naiveté of the forensic dimension of the utilitarian submission. ..
  45. Durante C. Bioethics in a pluralistic society: bioethical methodology in lieu of moral diversity. Med Health Care Philos. 2009;12:35-47 pubmed publisher
    ..It will be argued that these new methodological insights are able to overcome the problems facing other methodologies and may provide a viable means for adequately addressing issues of pluralism in bioethics. ..
  46. Rees G. Mortal exposure: on the goodness of writing medical ethics. Perspect Biol Med. 2008;51:163-75 pubmed publisher
    ..Because it provides occasions for reflection on one's own mortality, medical ethics may no longer need immediate medical application in order to claim its contribution to caring. ..
  47. Vanbelle G. [Toward a practical ethic]. Rev Belge Med Dent (1984). 2007;62:141-7 pubmed
  48. Ursin L. Personal autonomy and informed consent. Med Health Care Philos. 2009;12:17-24 pubmed publisher
    ..It is argued that this has implications for how consent requirements based on different criteria of specificity and understanding should be viewed and justified. ..
  49. Queraltó R. Ethics as a beneficial Trojan horse in a technological society. Sci Eng Ethics. 2013;19:13-26 pubmed publisher
    ..From a pragmatic perspective, the process of introducing ethical values into contemporary society can be regarded as a beneficial Trojan horse, a metaphor that will be developed further. ..
  50. Manders Huits N. What values in design? The challenge of incorporating moral values into design. Sci Eng Ethics. 2011;17:271-87 pubmed publisher
    ..of values, as well as their realization, is left undetermined and (5) VSD lacks a complimentary or explicit ethical theory for dealing with value trade-offs...
  51. Harris C. The good engineer: giving virtue its due in engineering ethics. Sci Eng Ethics. 2008;14:153-64 pubmed publisher
    ..Finally, the importance of the humanities and social sciences in promoting these virtues suggests that these disciplines are crucial in the professional education of engineers. ..
  52. Baez S, Flichtentrei D, Prats M, Mastandueno R, García A, Cetkovich M, et al. Men, women…who cares? A population-based study on sex differences and gender roles in empathy and moral cognition. PLoS ONE. 2017;12:e0179336 pubmed publisher
    ..Awareness of the role of measurement instruments in this field may hone our understanding of the links between empathy, sex differences, and gender roles. ..
  53. Perkins A, Leonard A, Weaver K, Dalton J, Mehta M, Kumari V, et al. A dose of ruthlessness: interpersonal moral judgment is hardened by the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2013;142:612-20 pubmed publisher
    ..This finding implies that its specific capacity to increase ruthlessness in moral-personal dilemmas was not a confound caused by sedation. ..