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Health Care Analysis

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 65–76 | Cite as

The Appeal to Law to Provide Public Answers to Bioethical Questions: It All Depends What Sort of Answers You Want

  • Timothy James
Original Article

Abstract

Bioethics as an academic discipline comes into public discourse when real life “hard cases” receive media attention. Since cases of this sort increasingly often become the subject of litigation, the forum for debate can be a court of law, with judges as the final arbiters. Judges (unlike philosophers) are obliged to give final and definitive rulings in a constrained time period. Their training is in a type of discourse very different from moral philosophy, though still concerned with right and wrong. This paper explores the differences between the tools and methods used in public legal debate and private academic discourse, and the different nature of the answers they produce. It attempts to suggest some ways in which bioethicists can better understand lawyers’ reasoning in cases of this sort, and how communication between bioethics and law might be improved.

Keywords

Law Ethics Decision making Ethical theory Hard cases Judicial method 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawBirmingham City UniversityBirminghamUK

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