Empirical ethics in action in practices of dementia care

Minke Goldsteen

in Empirical Ethics in Psychiatry

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780199297368
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754586 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Empirical ethics in action in practices of dementia care

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In the last decade of the twentieth century there was increasing interest in empirical approaches to the discipline of bioethics. The issue was raised of how to combine empirical research and ethical theory. How does this ‘marriage’ come about and what does it look like? Different approaches to bioethics have different implications for the relationships between ethical theory and empirical data. In this chapter I will not discuss these different positions in detail; instead I will take a specific research project as a case-study and reflect on the concrete process of doing empirical ethics research. What does empirical ethics research look like? What kind of phases does such a process have? What kinds of choices need to be made? What kinds of problems might occur?

I will begin by giving a short overview of the developments in the discipline of ethics, and more specifically of health care ethics, in order to sketch the context in which the research was carried out and to make clear my own position with regard to approaches to empirical ethics. I will then turn to the actual practice of doing empirical ethics. I will discuss the issue of how empirical data and ethical theory were combined in the research study, which is the focus of this chapter: Practices of responsibility in the care of the chronically ill. In this study we made use of the theoretical perspective of the American philosopher Margaret Walker (Walker 1998). I will argue that theory plays various roles and that theory is interwoven into the whole research process. I will examine the process of analysis and give examples of what kinds of results this study offers. Finally I will draw out some conclusions relevant to the general question of what is ‘empirical ethics’.

Chapter.  5123 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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