Doing Good and Avoiding Evil
Part I. Principles and Reasoning
by Lisa Newton


V. By Way of Conclusion: The Need for Clarity

No one form of reasoning is inherently superior to the other. We may use them all, and usually, in the course of a discussion involving ethics, we do. But it is important to note the differences among them, for if we do not, we condemn ourselves to talk past each other and frustrate our dialogue. For example, at a dinner party some years ago, I came across a heated debate on the problem of educating inner-city black teenagers. One side of the debate was arguing that the blacks had been treated so badly in the past, and had been denied such basic amenities and encouragements, that it was unjust to expect them to measure up to middle-class educational expectations. The other side, made up of schoolteachers, was arguing that education provided the only decent prospects for the future, and indeed, the only way out of the ghetto, for these youngsters, and unless they got their act together and got motivated somehow to finish school, the next generation would be just as disadvantaged and ill-treated as the present one.

Were these two groups really arguing against each other? No. Each could easily have conceded the other's point (and sometimes did) while maintaining its own. Rather, they were arguing past each other, one arguing consequentially (toward the future, bleak or somewhat brighter, depending on the means, especially educational means, adopted now), and the other deontologically (from justice). Both, by the way, were making excellent points. You might want to warm up your minds at this point by joining that debate; but please, do a better job than they did at keeping straight what kind of argument you are using.


Major Sources for ethics: read when you can. They should be available in any library, some in several editions.

1. Classic Texts

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica IA IIAE QQ 55-67; 90-96
    (Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character) (Bernard Gert, Morality)
  • Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics; The Politics
    (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue)
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
  • Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • John Locke Second Treatise (Of Civil Government)
  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism; On Liberty
  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
  • W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good

2. Health Care Ethics: With special reference to nursing

  • Benjamin, Martin and Joy Curtis, Ethics in Nursing New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Davis, Ann J. and Mila A. Aroskar, Ethical Dilemmas and Nursing Practice, New York: Appleton Century Crofts 1978.
  • Jameton, Andrew, Nursing Practice: The Ethical Issues, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall 1984.
  • Muyskens, James L., Moral Problems in Nursing, Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield, 1982

2. Health Care Ethics: General Sources

  • Beauchamp, Tom and James F. Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, New York: Oxford University Press, Fourth Edition 1994

    Note: as an introductory text, Principles of Biomedical Ethics is the most comprehensive, and one of the easiest to understand. Beauchamp is a pioneer in the Field; this is a good text to start with and, for most purposes, to stay with.

  • Callahan, Daniel, Setting Limits, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
  • Callahan, Daniel, What Kind of Life, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
  • Daniels, Norman, Seeking Fair Treatment, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Feinberg, Joel, The Problem of Abortion, Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1984.
  • Katz, Jay, The Silent World of Doctor and Patient, New York: The Free Press, 1984.
  • Levine, Robert J., Ethics and Regulation of Clinical Research, Baltimore: Urban and Schwarzenburg, second edition 1986.
  • Minogue, Brendan, Bioethics: A Committee Approach, Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1996.
  • Pence, Gregory, Classic Cases in Medical Ethics, New York: McGraw Hill, 2nd Edition 1995.
  • Pence, Gregory, Classic Works in Medical Ethics: Core Philosophical Readings Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
  • Schwartz, Lewis M., Arguing About Abortion, Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1993.
  • Veatch, Robert, A Theory of Medical Ethics, New York: Basic Books, 1981.

3. Journals

There are perhaps a dozen journals in the general field of health care ethics. The only ones that you would need to know about for practical use are:

  • Hastings Center Report, available from the Hastings Center,
  • Medical Ethics Advisor, available from American Health Consultants, Atlanta, GA.
    (800) 688-2421

Materials prepared by Lisa H. Newton, Ph.D. 1998





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