Burying the basilisk of bioethics: What can be resolved, dissolved, and refocused in the ethics expertise debate.
Since the inception of bioethics, some theorists have denied that clinical ethicists have ethics expertise, understood as the ability to give justified moral recommendations in patient cases. These denials have caused considerable alarm, leading some to argue that the entire discipline needs to be fundamentally reconsidered. Although this debate has been a source of academic attention for decades, these challenges to ethics expertise can now be either resolved by showing they are based on an untenable view of moral justification or dissolved by showing they result from a rash of equivocations on key phrases such as what it means to give a "moral recommendation," or "furnish answers" in an ethics consultation. Like the blind men and the elephant, what sounds like disagreement may only be theorists describing different aspects of the same facilitation approach to clinical ethics endorsed by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. While the question of whether ethicists have ethics expertise can be resolved or dissolved, theorists should refocus on how much (content-thick vs. content-thin) expertise ethicists have. Here, theorists need not commit themselves to a general view but can be content-thick on some issues and content-thin on others.
Online ahead of print
Brummett A. Burying the basilisk of bioethics: what can be resolved, dissolved, and refocused in the ethics expertise debate. Bioethics. 2022 May 16. doi: 10.1111/bioe.13044. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35575142.