Chapter 38 : Making Decisions When There Is No Right Answer

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Bioethics, or biomedical ethics, has become an immensely important topic. Few major hospitals are without an ethics committee to assist patients or health care providers when they need help. Colleges offer courses of study in medical humanities or bioethics. High school students, too, must be aware of the questions bioethicists study. Paralleling the medical developments described were striking advances in the scientific understanding of cellular and molecular biology. Knowledge of molecular genetics has only recently been applied to specific diseases or patients, but the ethical questions that plague society about any medical technology apply to genetic technologies and other applications of medical biotechnology. To make ethical decisions, society must agree on some basic guidelines about what constitutes moral conduct. In the field of biomedical ethics, certain guides are well established. This chapter presents specific case studies to analyze and a decision-making model to be used in these analyses. Part of the decision-making process is to gather any additional background facts needed to evaluate the situation and to find out what sort of ethical standards that apply to a particular case have been established. The chapter provides a decision as to the best course of action and justifies it in terms of basic ethical principles. The case studies provided raise bioethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas revolve around trying to find the best solution when no solution is completely good. A dilemma exists when no choice is ideal but all options have benefits and risks that must be carefully assessed.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Making Decisions When There Is No Right Answer, p 372-376. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Students, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817480_ch38
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