© 2017

Life and Death Decisions in the Clinical Setting

Moral decision making through dialogic consensus


Part of the SpringerBriefs in Ethics book series (BRIEFSETHIC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Paul Walker, Terence Lovat
    Pages 11-26
  3. Paul Walker, Terence Lovat
    Pages 37-50
  4. Paul Walker, Terence Lovat
    Pages 51-63

About this book


This book moves away from the frameworks that have traditionally guided ethical decision-making in the Western clinical setting, towards an inclusive, non-coercive and, reflective dialogic approach to moral decision-making. Inspired in part by Jürgen Habermas’s discourse theory of morality and principles of communicative action, the book offers a proportionist approach as a way of balancing out the wisdom in traditional frameworks, set in the actual reality of the clinical situation at hand. Putting this approach into practice requires having a conversation, a dialogue or a discourse, with collaboration amongst all the stakeholders. The aim of the dialogue is to reach consensus in the decision, via mutual understanding of the values held by the patient and others whom they see as significant. This book aims to underscore the moral philosophical foundations for having a meaningful conversation. Life and Death Decision in the Clinical Setting is especially relevant in our contemporary era, characterised medically by an ever-increasing armamentarium of life-sustaining technology, but also by increasing multiculturalism, a multiplicity of faiths, and increasing value pluralism.


Ethical decisions in the clinical context Ethics of life and death Medical morality Moral aspects of clinical practice Impact of multiculturalism on medicine Value pluralism in clinical settings Proportionalism in medicine Proportionalism vs Principalism Discourse morality in clinical settings Discourse ethics in clinical settings Dialogic consensus in clinical decision-making Consensus in clinical decision-making Consensus in clinical decision-making Impact of medical technology on medical ethics Life-prolonging technologies and moral decision making Jürgen Habermas Ethical frameworks in medicine Deontology and life and death Teleology and life and death Virtue ethics in medicine

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.The University of NewcastleSchool of Medicine and Public Health The University of NewcastleNew LambtonAustralia
  2. 2.Sch Humanities & Soc SciThe University of Newcastle Sch Humanities & Soc SciCallaghanAustralia

About the authors

Paul Walker is Conjoint Associate Professor in Surgery and the Clinical Unit in Ethics and Health Law, Faculty of Health and Medicine, the University of Newcastle, Australia, and a practicing paediatric otolaryngologist. Paul’s research examines moral decision-making in medicine, including its implications for medical education. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and of the American College of Surgeons, a member of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Ethics Committee, the Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology (President-elect), the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology, the Australian Association of Bioethics and Health Law and the Australian Association of Philosophy.

Terence Lovat is Emeritus Professor and Postgraduate Theology Convenor in the School of Humanities and Social Science, the University of Newcastle, Australia, and Honorary Research Fellow at Oxford University, UK. Terry is a former Pro Vice

-Chancellor, Dean and Chair of the University’s Human Research Ethics Committee. He has served on the Board of the Australian Council of Deans of Education, including as President, as an Executive member of the Deans of Arts Social Sciences and Humanities, on the Executive of the NSW Teacher Education Council, including as President, on the inaugural Board of the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (later ALTC) and the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. Terry teaches and researches in the discipline areas of philosophy, religion and theology, ethics and education, and has a particular interest in matters of Islamic versus Judaeo-Christian theology, religion, ethics and values in their application to education, moral philosophy and bioethics. His earlier work (with Mitchell and Kerridge), Bioethics and Clinical Ethics for Health Care Professionals (1996), became a standard text in many medical and healthcare training programs.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Life and Death Decisions in the Clinical Setting
  • Book Subtitle Moral decision making through dialogic consensus
  • Authors Paul Walker
    Terence Lovat
  • Series Title SpringerBriefs in Ethics
  • Series Abbreviated Title SpringerBriefs in Ethics
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Author(s) 2017
  • Publisher Name Springer, Singapore
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Softcover ISBN 978-981-10-4300-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-981-10-4301-7
  • Series ISSN 2211-8101
  • Series E-ISSN 2211-811X
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages X, 68
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Bioethics
    Medical Education
    Premedical Education
    Moral Philosophy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Health & Hospitals


“The authors offer a brief yet robust overview of moral philosophy and propose a novel process of dialogic consensus for the resolution of moral dilemmas in the clinical setting. … written for healthcare professionals who lack a background in philosophy. It is most relevant to those who work in acute care settings where a majority of moral disagreements arise, but the method of dialogic consensus is relevant to all members of the healthcare field as well as interdisciplinary professionals.” (Sarah Sawicki, Doody’s Book Reviews, June, 2017)