Communicating moral reasoning in medicine as an expression of respect for patients and integrity among professionals
Keywords:communication, ethics, integrity, medicine, moral reasoning, pluralism
AbstractThe communication of moral reasoning in medicine can be understood as a means of showing respect for patients and colleagues through the giving of moral reasons for actions. This communication is especially important when disagreements arise. While moral reasoning should strive for impartiality, it also needs to acknowledge the individual moral beliefs and values that distinguish each person (moral particularity) and give rise to the challenge of contrasting moral frameworks (moral pluralism). Efforts to communicate moral reasoning should move beyond common approaches to principles-based reasoning in medical ethics by addressing the underlying beliefs and values that define our moral frameworks and guide our interpretations and applications of principles. Communicating about underlying beliefs and values requires a willingness to grapple with challenges of accessibility (the degree to which particular beliefs and values are intelligible between persons) and translatability (the degree to which particular beliefs and values can be transposed from one moral framework to another) as words and concepts are used to communicate beliefs and values. Moral dialogues between professionals and patients and among professionals themselves need to be handled carefully, and sometimes these dialogues invite reference to underlying beliefs and values. When professionals choose to articulate such beliefs and values, they can do so as an expression of respectful patient care and collaboration and as a means of promoting their own moral integrity by signalling the need for consistency between their own beliefs, words and actions.
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