Social and Individual Interest Conflicts

  • Colleen D. Clements
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Biomedicine, Ethics, and Society book series (CIBES)


One of the continuing, unresolved problems in medical ethics is the conflict between micro-ethics and macro-ethics, or individual and social interest conflicts. The individual, as a subsystem of the general social system, interacts with all other individuals in a precarious balance (controlled state or homeostasis) whose result is the social system. Not only do various individual needs and interests conflict with each other, but the specific needs of an individual (subsystem) can seriously conflict with maintaining the balance of the global system. One of the major problems in ethics (and politics) is the question of how we choose between these very different needs and who does the choosing. We know, for example, that complex feedback mechanisms in biological systems routinely function to sacrifice subsystems in order to maintain homeostasis. Shock in a complex organism is a good example of certain built-in physiological valuations of what is expendable in a trauma situation.


Spinal Muscular Atrophy Cost Containment Social Interest Parental Choice Ethical Justification 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 78.
    L. Jolyon West, Op. Cit.Google Scholar
  2. 79.
    This is an answer to Robert Veatch’s more optimistic view of conflict resolution, which is erroneous because it does not consider systems dynamics and hence feels that only individual conflicts occur, or that justice is an achievable ideal within a functioning system. See Robert Veatch, Case Studies in Medical Ethics, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1977, pp. 83–88.Google Scholar
  3. 80.
    Richard Doherty and Klaus Roghmann, “Attitudes and Acceptance of Prenatal Diagnosis among Women and Physicians in the Rochester Region,” Medical Genetics 323 (1979).Google Scholar
  4. 81.
    For an example, see Seymour L. Halleck, The Politics of Therapy, Science House, New York, 1971.Google Scholar
  5. 82.
    Tabitha M. Powledge and John Fletcher, “Guidelines for the Ethical, Social and Legal Issues in Prenatal Diagnosis: A Report from the Genetics Research Group of the Hastings Center, Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences,” New England Journal of Medicine 300, 168 (1979).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 83.
    Tabitha Powledge, personal communication.Google Scholar
  7. 84.
    Charles F. Westoff and Ronald R. Rindfuss, “Sex Pre-selection in the U.S.: Some Implications,” Science 184, 633 (1974).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 85.
    Daniel Callahan, “The Psychiatrist as Double Agent,” Hastings Center Report 4 (No. 1), 12 (1974)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. In the Service of the State: The Psychiatrist as Double Agent, Hastings Center Report Special Supplement, April, 1978Google Scholar
  10. Fritz Redlich and Richard Mollica, “Overview: Ethical Issues in Contemporary Psychiatry,” American Journal of Psychiatry, 133 (2), 125 (1976).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Burr Eichelman and J. D. Barchas, “Ethical Aspects of Psychiatry,” Op. Cit.; Seymour L. Halleck, Op. Cit.Google Scholar
  12. 86.
    Tabitha Powledge, personal communication.Google Scholar
  13. 87.
    Eliot Friedson, Profession of Medicine, Dodd, Mead, New York, 1970Google Scholar
  14. Professional Dominance, Atherton Press, New York, 1972.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The HUMANA Press Inc. 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colleen D. Clements
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations