Health Sciences Building, 155 College Street, Room 108
  • October 26, 2016 from 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Speaker: Jennifer Flynn, PhD, Assistant Professor of Bioethics, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University

This seminar addresses the general topic of clinical ethics consultation, and asks the following question: is there a sense in which clinical ethics consultation is moralistic, and if so, is this a problem? The first part of the talk will explore the idea of moralism. What kind of criticism does the term ‘moralism’ make? Generally, to call a moral judgment or attitude moralistic is to disparage it, by way of suggesting its presumption or sanctimony. The concept of moralism has been examined by moral philosophers such as Annette Baier, Cora Diamond, and Albert Jonsen, and I will discuss their work in an effort to give some clarity to the notion of moralism.

The second part of the talk asks whether clinical ethics consultation is even in part moralistic. This discussion draws connections between the different models of ethics consultation, and possible tendencies toward moralism in clinical ethics. I suggest that clinical ethics faces a dilemma, because each model of clinical ethics consultation runs a risk: either its goals are too modest, or it endorses a kind of moralistic clinical ethics consultation. At the same time, I argue that ethics consultation is an indispensable endeavor, and I offer suggestions as to how it might avoid moralism while also setting appropriate goals for itself. Discussion on these ideas, drawing on the audience’s experience with ethics consultation, will follow.