on the Patient
Centre for Applied Ethics, Philosophy Section,
University of Wales, Cardiff, UK
This chapter will address two core questions with respect to the relationship of ethics to pharmaceutical research and clinical practice: 1. What is the purpose of teaching ethics? 2. Why are the patient’s understanding of, and attitude towards, research and clinical practice important from a moral perspective?
The first question entails that we ask how an awareness of ethics might change the understanding that researchers and clinicians have of their work, and how that awareness might influence everyday working practices. It also leads to an initial account of ethics as an awareness of practice that makes it more (not less) problematic. This is because professional and scientific practice can be ethical only by respecting the different viewpoints and understandings of others. This provides the context for asking the second question.
The second question entails that we recognize that patients and the lay public may have a different understanding of the nature, purpose and priorities of research and clinical practice than that held by the medical or pharmaceutical profession. If this assertion is plausible, then one must inquire into the precise consequences that recognition of the patient’s perspective has for the scientist or professional. The assessment of consequences in turn depends upon asking whether or not the patient’s perspective has any worth or value. (Bluntly, one must ask whether patients and the public are merely ill-informed or confused, or do they have a distinctive and important understanding of disease, health and medicine?)
Pharmaceutical Ethics. Edited by S. Salek and A. Edgar. © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.