Monash Bioethics Review

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp S62–S75 | Cite as

The extent of collective responsibility in medical science

  • Minou Bernadette Friele


When dealing with questions of scientific responsibility, we are often concerned with the ethical implications of new and promising but at the same time risky advances in technology and with the responsibility researchers might bear for the application of their scientific results. One very well known example is the question of whether or not the physicists and engineers of the atomic bomb were — at least partly — morally responsible for the bombing of Hiroshima, because their research technically enabled a form of killing that otherwise would not have been possible. Similar problems of responsibility currently arise in the field of biomedicine. Biologists, physicians and other scientists, who are engaged in the development of technologies like reproductive cloning that can be used in morally questionable ways, are increasingly asked to assume some responsibility for the use of their research by others. Ethicists are dealing with the question of how much responsibility (if any) can be ascribed to someone who’s action was not inherently morally wrong but can be used in morally blameworthy ways.

More rarely it is asked however, if and how much responsibility a user of research results bears for morally questionably or even clearly immoral research that had been conducted that was necessary for his or her work to be carried out Insofar as these questions are dealing with responsibility that in the end must be born by more than one agent, both questions also raise issues of shared or collective responsibility. In this article I will focus on the issue of moral responsibility as it is related to the use of results that were obtained in a morally questionable way. Insofar as the actions that I will focus on are not inherently morally wrong they might be considered to be examples of “moral complicity”.


Death Penalty Moral Responsibility Fetal Tissue Slippery Slope Monash Bioethic Review 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Monash University 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Minou Bernadette Friele
    • 1
  1. 1.Europäische AkademieZur Erforschung von FolgenUSA

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