Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Review of Informed Consent #1: Philosophical Overview

Ethics is a major branch of philosophy. It concerns rights, behavior, treatment of others, and dichotomies of good and evil.

Ethics are established in the field of human services by stating a rationale for should be done and reconciling the rationale to ethical guideline and positions. The implication of this is that more than one ethical position is possible and that the depth of the ethics of an action is related to the excellence of reconciliation to ethical guidelines.

In research we rarely deal with ethical vs. unethical. Usually it is more subtle. We must consider and attempt to match ideals or guidelines to the behavior of ourselves and others. Using this method to understand ethics, the best way to be unethical, is to fail to provide ethical justification for a treatment.

It is my observation that creating ethical guidelines calls into use another field of philosophy, being “natural law”. Natural laws, are the inherent rules of our existence, inalienable and independent of political law. The following could be said to be natural laws:

1. Children are cared for until ready to live on there own.

2. People have a duty for the welfare of one another

It should be noted that natural laws often are almost always legislated, examples of legal documents heavily based on natural law would be the Magna Carta and the US Constitution.

Interpretations of natural law, however, may lead to differences in views of ethics, different ethics may lead to different actions. I would strongly argue in favor of clearly understanding this connection when attempting to debunk the ethics of an action.

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