The Cases Philosophers Have Dreamt Of

By Kaebnick, Gregory E. | The Hastings Center Report, May-June 2004 | Go to article overview

The Cases Philosophers Have Dreamt Of


Kaebnick, Gregory E., The Hastings Center Report


In the Field Notes at the very front of this issue, my colleague Bruce Jennings describes the "double agency" he sought to cultivate in himself during his research on hospice and palliative care. On the one hand, in order to really understand hospice and palliative care, he wanted some insider access to the organizations providing it and the treatment settings where it is provided. On the other hand, he wanted to maintain a "critical distance" from these organizations and caregivers. He sought to be both insider and outsider--and having some level of insider status was necessary, he says, for being a good outsider. A bioethicist ought to be in both places.

The insider-outsider problem is in full bloom. One of the most heated arguments among bioethicists over the last few years has been over whether and in what way bioethicists can claim to have "critical distance" from medicine, research, and biotechnology if they have relationships--financial relationships, in particular--with those who provide care, conduct research, and market new technologies. The Report tries to balance competing considerations on this point. In our instructions to authors we ask for a disclosure of any financial interests that bear on the topic of the article. In some cases we would reject articles by authors who have these conflicts of interest, but the lead article in this issue makes clear, we will sometimes publish them. Ezekiel Emanuel, the corresponding author of the article, discloses a handful of financial relationships with companies that conduct research of the sort that the article examines. …

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