Richard Zaner and “Standard” Medical Ethics

  • Stephen HansonEmail author
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 997)


To an analytic philosopher, reading some of Richard Zaner’s writings can be strangely challenging. Such frustrations can lead to a belief that there is a strong divide between Zaner’s case-focused approach to bioethics and certain theoretical approaches, such as Engelhardt’s principle of permission or specified principlism. This apparent divide might lead one to think that practitioners of the two types of thinking will have difficulty in communicating with each other, and even more difficulty with working together. To think this way would be to discard a very productive union. More traditional forms of bioethical theory are important at least in part because of the impact that they can have upon clinical case judgment, and so should not only be compatible with methods of case analysis, but should also bring something useful to bear in such analysis. The reverse is true as well, that clinical case analysis should be compatible with, and contribute to, the larger bioethical theory. I argue that this sort of symbiotic and mutually supportive relationship does indeed exist between standard bioethics and Zanerian case analysis. In this article, I explicate just one contribution of Zanerian clinical analysis to more general thought about bioethical theory; in the process of doing so, I also show the compatibility of clinical and theoretical bioethics, as well as further ways in which the two types of thinking about medical ethics can productively interact.


Moral Issue Health Care Team Clinical Ethic Coherent System Reflective Equilibrium 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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