Over the last two or three decades, there has been an enormous growth in what is known as applied ethics. Academic moral philosophers devoted more and more of their time to considering, not abstruse issues of ethical language or reasoning, but moral problems as they occurred in the real world. In co-operation with professionals from various walks of life, and not least medicine, they explored the pressing moral issues that confronted those professionals in their everyday practice. Moral philosophers thus found a new role, not as sages who could resolve moral problems, but rather as experts on how professionals might deal with their own moral dilemmas: how they could be formulated and discussed; the sort of conceptual and argumentative resources one might be able to appeal to in order to make sense of and resolve those problems.
Medical ethics has long been a major part of applied ethics. However, pharmaceutical ethics has, perhaps, been rather neglected. There has been much sniping at the activities of commercial pharmaceutical companies. This has at times no doubt contained just criticism, but at other times was ill-formed and misguided. However, there has been relatively little material that sought to engage with people who were working in pharmacy and pharmacology, that was sympathetic to their perspectives and that addressed their everyday professional concerns. We hope that this collection of articles begins to stake out pharmaceutical ethics, not just as a field independent from medical ethics, but as a field that has the practitioner’s perspective and concerns at its core.
The topics covered in this collection include general discussions of the nature of moral argument and moral decision-making, alongside responses to quite specific and concrete problems. After introductory chapters on ethical theory and the relationship between theory and real life decisionmaking, the first part of the book is concerned with a series of issues that the research pharmacist may confront, not least when conducting trials with human subjects. The concept of informed consent, that is so important in