Bioethics Without Analogy

  • Robert Hunt SprinkleEmail author
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 997)


Arguments by analogy are prominent features of bioethical literature. In the United States, dispositive analogies have greatly affected health policy and health law and, sometimes, bioethical reasoning itself. Analogical argument has deep roots and the effort to avoid its misapplication a long history. An alternative approach, exemplified by clinical-ethical practice in the Hippocratic and phenomenological traditions, is presented and recommended.


Moral Philosophy Clinical Ethic United States Constitution United States Supreme Fourteenth Amendment 
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.


  1. Armstrong, D., E. Kline-Rogers, S. M. Jani, et al., “Potential impact of the HIPAA privacy rule on data collection in a registry of patients with acute coronary syndrome,” Arch Intern Med, 2005, 165:1125–1129.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Burns, L., “Banking on the value of analogies in bioethics,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:63–65.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Campbell, C. S., “It never dies: assessing the Nazi analogy in bioethics,” J Med Humanit, 1992, 13:21–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caplan, A. L., “Misusing the Nazi analogy,” Science, 2005, 309:535.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cheney, K. L., A. S. Grutter, and N. J. Marshall, “Facultative mimicry: cues for colour change and colour accuracy in a coral reef fish,” Proc Biol Sci, 6 Nov 2007.Google Scholar
  6. Deckers, J., “Why two arguments from probability fail and one argument from Thomson’s analogy of the violinist succeeds in justifying embryo destruction in some situations,” J Med Ethics 2007 33, 160–164.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Fletcher, J. C., “Ethics and Amniocentesis for Fetal Sex Identification,” New England Journal of Medicine, 6 September 1979, 301:550–553.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Galen, On the Natural Faculties, Arthur John Brock, trans. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963), book I, sec. xiii, pp. 49–71.Google Scholar
  9. Gillam, L., “Arguing by analogy in the fetal tissue debate,” Bioethics, 1997, 11:397–412.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Gross, J., “Keeping Patients’ Details Private, Even From Kin,” New York Times, 3 July 2007.Google Scholar
  11. Havighurst, C. C., “Decentralizing decision making: private contract versus professional norms,” in Market Reforms in Health Care: Current Issues, New Directions, Strategic Decisions 22 (Jack A. Meyers ed., 1983).Google Scholar
  12. Henrickson, S. E. and U. H. von Andrian, “Single-cell dynamics of T-cell priming,” Curr Opin Immunol, 2007, 19:249–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hofmann, B., J. H. Solbakk and S. Holm, “Analogical reasoning in handling emerging technologies: the case of umbilical cord blood biobanking,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:49–57.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Holland, S., “It’s not what we say, exactly, or is it?” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:65–66.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson, M., Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics (University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 63–77.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, S. and I. Burger, “Limitations and justifications for analogical reasoning,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:59–61.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kamil, A. C. and H. L. Roitblat, “The ecology of foraging behavior: Implications for animal learning and memory,” Annu Rev Psychol, 1985, 36:141–169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Leadbeater, E. and L. Chittka, “Social learning in insects—from miniature brains to consensus building,” Curr Biol, 2007, 17:R703–R713.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. LeBas, N. R. and N. J. Marshall, “The role of colour in signalling and male choice in the agamid lizard Ctenophorus ornatus,” Proc Biol Sci, 2000, 267:445–452.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Locke, J., Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, the False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter is an Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government (London: Awnsham and John Churchill, 1698), presented as John Locke, Two Treatises of Government: A Critical Edition with an Introduction and Apparatus Criticus, amended reprinting, Peter Laslett, ed. (New York: Mentor Books, by arrangement with Cambridge University Press, 1960 and 1963).Google Scholar
  21. Locke, J., An Essay concerning Human Understanding, Peter H. Nidditch, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, 1975), Book IV, pp. 525–722.Google Scholar
  22. Lopez, J. J., “Mapping metaphors and analogies,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:61–63.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Neal, K. C., “Analogical trends in umbilical cord blood legislation in the United States,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:68–70.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Nees, D., Green, V., Treadway, K., Lafferty, J., Vanyo, M., Date, P. and Sprinkle, R. H., “Activism, Objectivism, and Environmental Politics,” Environmental Ethics, Fall 2003, 25:295–312.Google Scholar
  25. Nutton, V., “The fatal embrace: Galen and the history of ancient medicine,” Science in Context 18(1), 111–121 (2005).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Pender, S., “Examples and experience: on the uncertainty of medicine,” Br J Hist Sci, 2006, 39: 1–28.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Pepperberg, M., “Grey parrot numerical competence: a review,” Anim Cogn, 2006, 9:377–391.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Richey, W., “Supreme Court lets stand grandparent-visitation decision—At issue: whether judges violated the constitutional right of Shane Fausey to raise his child free of undue government interference,” Christian Science Monitor, 27 March 2007.Google Scholar
  29. Romanell, P., John Locke and Medicine: A New Key Locke (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1984), pp. 144–148.Google Scholar
  30. Samuel, G. N., R. A. Ankeny and I. H. Kerridge, “Mixing metaphors in umbilical cord blood transplantation,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:58–59.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith, B., “Analogy in moral deliberation: the role of imagination and theory in ethics,” J Med Ethics, 2002, 28:244–248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Sprinkle, R. H., Profession of Conscience: The Making and Meaning of Life-Sciences Liberalism (Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 77–89.Google Scholar
  33. Sprinkle, R. H., “Corporatism in Question: A Note on Managed Care,” Report of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, Summer 1997, 17:3, pp. 13–17.Google Scholar
  34. Sprinkle, R. H., “A Moral Economy of American Medicine in the Managed-Care Era,” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, June 2001, 22:3, pp. 247–268.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Sundstrom, P., “Peter Singer and ‘lives not worth living’—comments on a flawed argument from analogy,” J Med Ethics, 1995, 21:35–38.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Vandevelde, K. J., Thinking Like a Lawyer: An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (Westview Press Law/Methodology, 1996), pp. 86–88.Google Scholar
  37. White, G. B., “Analogical power and Aristotle’s model of persuasion,” Am J Bioeth, 2006, 6:67–68.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Wiland, E., “Unconscious violinists and the use of analogies in moral argument,” J Med Ethics, 2000, 26:466–468.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Wilson, J. F., “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy rule causes ongoing concerns among clinicians and researchers,” Ann Intern Med, 2006, 145:313–316.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Wolf, M. S. and C. L. Bennett, “Local perspective of the impact of the HIPAA privacy rule on research,” Cancer, 2006, 106:474–479.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Zaner, R. M. and M. J. Bliton, “The injustice of it all: Caring for the chronically ill,” J Clin Ethics, 1991, 2:157–159.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Zaner, R. M., “Listening or telling? Thoughts on responsibility in clinical ethics consultation,” Theor Med, 1996, 17:255–277.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Zaner, R. M., “Power and hope in the clinical encounter: A meditation on vulnerability,” Med Health Care Philos, 2000, 3:265–275.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Zaner, R. M., “Voices and time: The venture of clinical ethics,” J Med Philos, 1993, 18:9–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Zaner, R. M., Ethics and the Clinical Encounter (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988).Google Scholar
  46. “Biomedical ethics and the shadow of Nazism: a conference on the proper use of the Nazi analogy in ethical debate, 8 Apr 1976,” Hastings Cent Rep, 1976, 6:1.Google Scholar
  47. “Contested terrain. The Nazi analogy in bioethics,” Hastings Cent Rep, 1988, 18:29–33.Google Scholar
  48. The President’s Council on Bioethics, Being Human: Readings from the President’s Council on Bioethics (Washington, D.C., December 2003).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public PolicyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations