Preserving Our Values: Habermas, Hospital Ethics, and the Business of Health Care

By Johnson, Paul F. | The Midwest Quarterly, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Preserving Our Values: Habermas, Hospital Ethics, and the Business of Health Care


Johnson, Paul F., The Midwest Quarterly


THERE IS A TROUBLESOME and dangerous malady threatening the operation and vitality of some of our social institutions today. Call it "Creeping Corporatism." It's the idea that somehow the work of our various institutions can be done more effectively if the skills controlled by a professional managerial class are brought to bear upon the work process through a more tightly regimented corporate structure. The process moves from the statement of desired outcomes to the redesigning of production methods to the marketing and consumption of the finished "product." We can see it all over the lot: our elections, professional sports, higher education, health care. Most of us who vote are at least mildly distressed at the way the candidates for public office are "packaged" and presented to us through professionally managed media campaigns. The social scientific methods of data-gathering and survey-taking produce an endless stream of polling results that tell us precisely ([+ or -] 3 points) what we are already thinking and expecting and wanting for the future--and thereby relieve the candidates themselves of any obligation to tell us what they are really thinking. "First, get elected" is the first rule of the political jungle; "hire professional help" the second. Those of us in higher education are struggling to think about what we do in the classroom in a way amenable to the social-scientific methods of "learning outcomes" and assessment rubrics that are being urged upon us by the ever-more assertive accrediting agencies. But it is hard to describe the marvelous and mysterious growth of a young mind, over the course of a semester no less than over the full four years of college experience, in rigorous and mathematically quantifiable terms; hard to think of students as consumers; to regard liberal education as a product or commodity to be marketed like any other, or to think of Deans in their traditional capacity as faculty advocates as "vice-presidents." Free agency in baseball is defended on the hardnosed, real-world terms of economic analysis, but it is hard to cheer for the mercenary shortstop who hires on in late July to help with the pennant run, who makes more money at one turn at bat than most people earn in a year of honest toil, and who will be gone in October only to reappear next year in the uniform of a hated rival. The vague and for the most part inarticulate sense of distress in all of these contexts is symptomatic of an underlying malady that we had better make some effort to understand.

Without having to deny the salubrious potential of economic theory and the principles of business management, we may well pause to consider the ancillary harm and the unintended consequences of an over-zealous application of social-scientific methodology to domains in which they are insufficiently attuned to the values which inform our institutions. A test ease, and the subject of the present essay, is the condition of our ethical values in health care at a time when our medical institutions are more and more given over to the ministrations of a professional management regime. What price do we pay, in non-monetary terms, for the greater efficiency of health care delivery? What values may be lost? How do we negotiate the line between managerial efficacy and values-sensitivity? The focus here shall be on the hospital ethics committee and its prospects under the rapidly developing circumstances in the field of health care, but the results could be generalized in any number of different directions.

Most hospitals today have an ethics committee. Although the formal accreditation review process for hospitals, conducted under the auspices of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), does not specifically require the existence or regular meeting of such a committee, an active and well-situated ethics committee goes a long way toward demonstrating compliance with JCAHO regulations, and hence toward securing the many indispensable benefits which flow from accreditation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Preserving Our Values: Habermas, Hospital Ethics, and the Business of Health Care
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.