Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Article excerpt

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Socrates, in Plato's Republic, declares that no one need be appointed to check the decisions of the guardians, for they will have such a passion for knowledge and understanding that they will necessarily realize the Good. Surely members of ethics committees share a similar passion. While our authors below do not insist that specific legislative or executive guardians are required to oversee ethics committees, they suggest that if these committees are to serve as their own guardians, they should fevelop more explicit accounts of several aspects of their case review function.

Bruce Jennings deals with the preliminary--but basic--question of whose conception of the Good is to prevail in ethics committee reviews of surrogate decisions. In such instances, committees have no objective standard of the Good against which to test the surrogate's conception. Moreover, the radical self-emptying demanded of the surrogate may be impossible to achieve. Jennings, consequently, recommends a new approach to assessing surrogate decisions that takes account of the surrogate's concrete situation.

When patients' case are discussed without their participation and consent, Robert Veatch argues, the principle of confidentiality, basic to our shared conception of the Good, is violated. He proposes that disclosure of confidential patient information be allowed only when there is public due process and accountability. …

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