Grand Canyon University Biomedical Ethics in The Christian Narrative Case Study Worksheet

This assignment will incorporate a common practical tool in helping clinicians begin to ethically analyze a case. Organizing the data in this way will help you apply the four principles of principlism.

Based on the “Case Study: Healing and Autonomy” and other required topic study materials, you will complete the “Applying the Four Principles: Case Study” document that includes the following:

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Part 1: Chart

This chart will formalize principlism and the four-boxes approach by organizing the data from the case study according to the relevant principles of biomedical ethics: autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice.

Part 2: Evaluation

This part includes questions, to be answered in a total of 500 words, that describe how principalism would be applied according to the Christian worldview.

Applying the Four Principles: Case Study
Part 1: Chart (60 points)
Based on the “Healing and Autonomy” case study, fill out all the relevant boxes below. Provide the information by means of bullet
points or a well-structured paragraph in the box. Gather as much data as possible.
Medical Indications
Patient Preferences
Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
Autonomy
Quality of Life
Contextual Features
Beneficence, Nonmaleficence, Autonomy
Justice and Fairness
©2019. Grand Canyon University. All Rights Reserved.
Part 2: Evaluation
Answer each of the following questions about how principlism would be applied:
1. In 200-250 words answer the following: According to the Christian worldview, which of the four
principles is most pressing in this case? Explain why. (45 points)
2. In 200-250 words answer the following: According to the Christian worldview, how might a
Christian rank the priority of the four principles? Explain why. (45 points)
References:
©2019. Grand Canyon University. All Rights Reserved.
The Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics: A
Foundation for Current Bioethical Debate
Dana J. Lawrence, DC, MMedEda
ABSTRACT
Objective: To provide an overview of the four principles originally developed by
Thomas Beauchamp and James Childress are now used in modern bioethical
decision-making and debate and to describe several challenges to their premier
status in bioethics.
Discussion: The four principles that form the core of modern bioethics discussion
include autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice. The originators of
these principles claim that none is more important than another, yet challenges
have been laid against these principles on that basis as well as on other areas of
disagreement. This paper looks at the nature of the most significant of those
challenges.
Conclusion: The four principles have withstood challenge now for nearly 30
years and still form the basis for most decision making in both the research setting
and in clinical practice within the chiropractic profession. However, professional
understanding of the principles is not known and may provide a fertile area for
further investigation.
Key Indexing Terms: Biomedical Ethics; Chiropractic. (J Chiropr Humanit
2007;14:34-40)
both individuals have done a superb job in
revising this text in light of both modern
medical developments as well as directed
challenges against the form of ethics that has
come to be known as principlism.
INTRODUCTION
Over the years, the four principles that
comprise the general working foundation for
modern American bioethics- beneficence,
nonmaleficence, justice and autonomy- have
become associated with Drs. James
Childress and Thomas Beauchamp. This is
in part due to the long-term success of their
Principles of Biomedical Ethics1, now in its
fifth edition and still highly influential. And
One of the great critics of principlism is H.
Tristram Engelhardt, author of a textbook
that challenges principlism on philosophical
grounds arising from what Engelhardt
describes as resulting from ethics occurring
in a content-free secular society2. What is
surprising is that it was Engelhardt himself
that initially proposed the concepts that led
to the development of principlism. As noted
by Albert R. Johnson in his short chapter
that opens the textbook Belmont Revisited:
Ethical Principles for Research with Human
a. Associate Professor, Palmer Center for
Chiropractic Research, 741 Brady Street,
Davenport, IA 52803. E-mail:
dana.lawrence@palmer.edu
Paper submitted November 27, 2007, in revised
form December 3, 2007, accepted December 4,
2007
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
34
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence
Subjects3, Englehardt suggested three
principles as the basis for the developing
report: “respect for humans as free moral
agents, concern to support the best interests
of human subjects in research, intent to
assure that the use of human subjects of
experimentation will on the sum redound to
the benefit of society.” Two of these would
comprise essential planks of the Belmont
Report, though “respect for humans as free
moral agents” would later be transmuted
into the larger concept of “respect for
autonomy,” later simply simplified to
“autonomy.” While Engelhardt was offering
his ideas, Johnson notes that Dr. Beauchamp
had drafted a paper on “Distributive Justice
and Morally Relevant Differences.” The
basic concept from Beauchamp was then
melded with the two accepted concepts from
Engelhardt (resepect for persons, best
interest) to derive respect for persons,
beneficence
and
justice.
Later,
nonmaleficence was separated theoretically
from beneficence, giving the four principles
of today.
That misguided criticism seems to come first
and foremost from friend and critic
Engelhardt, who states that “authority for
actions involving others in a secular
pluralistic
is
derived
from
their
1,p122
permission.”
Given this, and the fact
that it is not possible to define what is good
on anything but a secular content-free basis,
all ethics flows first from the principle of
permission, or, as Beauchamp and Childress
have it, respect for autonomy. Feinberg
notes that autonomy minimally requires the
ability to decide for the self free from the
control of others and with sufficient level of
understanding as to provide for meaningful
choice4. To be autonomous requires a person
to have the capacity to deliberate a course of
action, and to put that plan into action. This
creates problems in the delivery of health
care, especially when patients are comatose,
incompetent (whether due to age- i.e.,
children, or to mental ability) or, for
example, imprisoned. And this is an issue in
the clinical research setting, especially as it
relates to the provision of informed consent,
with its need for competence, disclosure,
comprehension and voluntariness.
This paper will look briefly at each of the
principles and will then examine a selection
of current thinking and literature on these
foundational principles of bioethics.
Beneficence
The common morality requires that we
contribute to others’ welfare, perhaps as an
embodiment of the Golden Rule.
Beauchamp and Childress suggest that there
are two principles of beneficence, positive
beneficence and utility. The principle of
positive beneficence asks that moral agents
provide benefit, while the principle of utility
requires that moral agents weight benefits
and deficits to produce the best result. This
seems to beg the issue of a risk benefit
analysis, with nonmaleficence representing
the deficit/risk side of the equation and
beneficence representing the benefit/asset
side of the equation. What cannot be so
easily answered is how much benefit a moral
Review of the Four Principles
Autonomy
In examining each of the four principles, it
is interesting to note that while the 5th
edition of Principle of Biomedical Ethics
opens with a discussion of autonomy, the
authors take pains to state that “…our order
of presentation does not imply that this
principle has priority over all other
principles. A misguided criticism of our
account is that the principle of respect for
autonomy overrides all other moral
considerations. This we firmly deny.”1,p.57
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
35
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence
agent should provide, how to weigh that
benefit against risk, and then how to act
accordingly. In the sense of the four
principles as a method of ethics, the moral
agent is charged with determining the
“good” in a specific scenario or situation,
and then weighing that good against the risk
of specific actions.
Justice addresses the questions of
distribution of scarce healthcare resources,
respect for people’s rights and respect for
morally acceptable laws. Justice represents
one of the thorniest issues that a country can
face, and in the United States is a source of
ongoing concern and political rancor. At its
base, the fundamental question is, is there a
universal right to healthcare? If there is not,
how are we to provide care for those who
for whatever reason cannot afford it; if there
is, to what level is such care to be offered,
and how will it be funded? How can we
ensure fairness is the process? These are not
question with obvious answers, and they
lead to various ways of answering the
question, from the distributive (those who
need more get more, for example) to the
non-distributive (each public health center
will get 1000 doses of a vaccine and will
provide them to whomever shows up first).
The practice of beneficence is challenged by
the respect for autonomy. It is not possible
to act without the permission of a free moral
agent without that agent’s consent. It is for
this reason that Engelhardt privileges the
principle of permission. And determining
good is a personal decision, and the good
that a patient may determine can often differ
from that of his or her physician or
caregiver. Beneficence therefore must
overlap in part with autonomy; patients wish
to be provided various levels of information,
and may wish to select a particular direction
for their care because in their view that is
the greatest good. Because this may differ
from the physician’s perspective, a tension
is created.
DISCUSSION
Current Commentary
While principlism is, in my opinion, the
driving force in bioethics today, it is by no
means without challenges or critics. As
noted, Engelhardt is one chief critic2; he
feels that one problem with principlism is
that no one of the four principles has priority
over any of the others, whereas he feels that
the principle of permission forms the basis
of today’s secular content-free ethics of
agreement. But the bioethics literature has
other papers both supporting and taking
issue with principlism. Here is an overview
of that literature.
Nonmaleficence
In healthcare, it is not uncommon to see the
words primum non nocere, first do no harm.
While hardly original, it represents in just
four words the ethical principle of
nonmaleficence; we should not harm others.
It is the negative side of beneficence, though
some, such as David Thomasma5 see the two
as more like two sides of the same coin. This
also represents the risk side of a risk-benefit
analysis. In clinical research, this is
addressed in the disclosure of risks
associated with being a participant in a
research project. But again, the question as
to what to disclose- every possible risk that
could potentially occur, or just the more
likely- is not clearly delineated.
Justice
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
Gillon6 is credited with first introducing
readers of the British Medical Journal to the
four principles. One of the comments that
Gillon notes in his 1994 overview7 is that
they are not designed to provide a method
36
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence
for choosing, but rather provide a set of
moral commitments, common language and
a common set of moral issues. It is
necessary to view these in the context of
scope in order to properly utilize the
principles. By scope, he means scope of
application, or who to what or whom we
owe these moral obligations. For example,
how much beneficence is owed to a given
person? How much help are we to offer? He
notes that we have a special relation with out
patients, in the sense that we have an
obligation to help our patients. At the same
time, he notes problems with questions
about who falls within the principle of
respect for autonomy and what is the scope
of a “right to life.” Finally, he makes the
observation that a four principles approach
to ethics does not offer a method for dealing
with conflicts between the principles. But
quite obviously Gillon supports a
principlistic approach.
In the feldschrift issue of the Journal of
Medical Ethics that many of the articles
cited here come from, AV Campbell
contrasts principlism with virtue ethics9. He
describes how virtue ethics asks the
question, “how should one live?” by
focusing on the character of the moral agent.
Beauchamp and Childress to address the
positive aspects of virtue ethics in their text1,
but also offer critiques of it, with a caveat
that virtue cannot be, in their estimation, a
prior measure of morality. The example
Campbell offers as a criticism of virtue
ethics is to suppose that Eichmann went
about exterminating entire populations of
Jews with a sincere desire, but Campbell
also states that to think that nothing more
than character matters is simplistic and
wrong. To him, virtue ethics and principlism
are partners, not opponents; they
complement one another. I find this a
compelling argument, for I feel that
principlism is a set of tools, and like most
tools have to used where appropriate; they
can be used by all approaches to ethics:
Kantianism, utilitarianism, and yes, virtue
ethics.
John Harris8 is on the other side of this
debate. He favors what he calls
“unprincipled ethics,” feeling that the four
principles are neither the beginning nor end
of ethical reflection. He claims that the use
of the four principles leads to a sterile
bioethics, and uniformity of thought in the
ethics community. The principles are neither
sufficient nor always a useful way of
approaching ethics. Instead, he feels that
principles become nothing more than a
checklist, and he offers two scenarios which
he feels show up the shortcomings of this
approach, one addressing commerce in
organ transplantation, and a second
addressing genetic manipulation producing
germline transmissible genetic enhancement.
I will not provide the details of his
arguments due to space, but he provides a
compelling discussion demonstrating how
principlism may not be an effective means
of addressing these concerns.
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
McCarthy offers a discussion that asks
whether we have to choose between
principlism or narrative ethics10. The schism
he discusses is between the use of principles
and the use of communication, and
McCarthy refuses to advantage one
approach over the other. McCarthy provides
a fine overview of principlism, describing
each of the four principles in detail and
modeling how Beauchamp and Childress
develop moral theory from it, using
reflective
equilibrium,
specification,
reciprocal weighing, testing, revision and
judgment. He then contrasts this to
narrativism, whereby the foundational
concept is the uniqueness of the moral
situation, the life story of the persons
involved and the need to create and maintain
37
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence
Macklin14 examines the same cases offered
by Gillon, and while supporting the use of
the four principles, she also offers several
cautions about how they are or may be used.
First, she simplifies the case regarding the
Jehovah’s Witness by commenting on how
the principles might be used: respect for
persons (autonomy) mandates respecting the
patient’s desires even if they appear to
unfavorable, while nonmalificence suggests
that honoring the request to not act would
create a harm, and beneficence would
suggest that benefits are not being
maximized. Without being ordered, which
principle takes precedence? How can harm
be assessed, when considering the sincere
beliefs of a person who espouses that faith
and for whom the transfusion might lead to
negative
metaphysical
implications?
Macklin uses the principles to argue both
sides of this dilemma and offers compelling
arguments both supporting and denying the
use of the transfusion. Macklin finds that
context is often the single factor leading to a
decision and that the inability to know
accurate predictions of good or bad
consequences will always be a challenge
when using this approach.
dialogue. McCarthy notes the unique
strengths and weaknesses of each approach,
and suggests that each uses a different set of
skills, those of principlism requiring us to
examine norms while those of narrativism
requiring a far greater reliance on intuition
and literary/critical skills. While different,
they are not antithetical and can work
together to better illuminate ethics
challenges.
Returning to Gillon, he offers a set of
scenarios to demonstrate how the principles
are used for analysis11. Gillon is himself a
leading advocate for this approach, though
he notes that challenges to principlism
comes from sources as varied as feminist
ethics, narrative ethics, virtue ethics and
other forms of ethics. In this paper, he
provides four scenarios for others to discuss.
Beauchamp himself weighs in12. His paper
is a summary of his influential textbook1,
but he emphasizes here the idea of
considered judgments, which he equates to
Rawls’ concept of reflective equilibrium13,
as well as the concept of specification, a
process he uses to reduce indeterminateness
of general norms to strengthen them as
action guides. All of this leads to coherent
ethics, or the reduction of inconsistency.
Beauchamp then uses the illustrative cases
of a Jehovah’s Witness refusing a blood
transfusion for himself, or for his child. By
using the principles, he is able to
demonstrate why one could allow the refusal
in the first case, but not in the second; in
fact, he strongly argues that in the second
case it is required to overrule the parent, not
just permitted. Finally, he applies the
principals to the question of allowing kidney
sales, and finds that it is not always possible
to argue that sale of a kidney is never
allowable. This is based on a close reading
of the principals, applied to a thorny
question.
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
Dawson and Garrard15 challenge two
contentions made by Gillon. One is that
respect for autonomy has a special position
within the hierarchy of the principals (which
were seen as co-equal historically), and the
other is cultural variation is a significant
factor in how we manufacture moral
judgments. In fact, the idea that autonomy
has some sort of precedence over other
principles is very much in line with the
writing of Engelhardt2. But Gillon feels that
autonomy is morally precious and that the
other principles require us to respect
autonomy. This does not convince Dawson
and Garrard, who feel that no principle can
come before any other. They deconstruct the
argument in favor of privileging autonomy,
38
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence
noting that if it promotes other principles it
is actually subservient to them. They also
argue that to say that respect for autonomy is
above the other principles leads to a number
of possible interpretations of what that
means. The four principles are prima facie
in nature; that they are reduces the potential
for moral absolutism.
action guides. They are in conflict with one
another, and seem to lack, in an ironic use of
the term against its authors, coherence. They
provide their own unified moral theory, as
developed in their text.
Gillon himself offers his thoughts after
reading through the attacks, comments and
papers that make up the feldschrift issue of
the Journal of Medical Ethics21. I will not
delineate his comments here, but he offers
commentary on each paper and its
arguments, in essence getting the last word.
He finds that no one has been able to
dislodge his view of principlism, and he
comes away feeling that it can withstand
even withering criticism. He argues that the
use of the principles mitigates the potential
for both moral relativism and moral
imperialism. And he refuses to back down
on the primacy of respect for autonomy,
even in the face of Beauchamp disagreeing
with him. To Gillon, principlism is not just
morally relevant in health care, but is the
foundation for a global bioethics.
The idea that cultural variation is important
is also offensive to Dawson and Garrard.
This suggests a relativism at play that can
lead to different judgments in different
cultures. Dawson and Garrard argue instead
for what they term “contextualism” that
would then limit the potential problems that
arise with relativism; it preserves the
importance of the four principles in ethics
decision-making. They decry the potential
problem that is created by what they view as
Gillon advancing a form of moral
imperialism. They favor a moral objectivism
instead.
Others have criticized principlism as well.
Holm16 suggests that principlism underplays
the importance of both beneficence and
justice, and that the methodology used in
principlism is inadequate. Lustig17 feels that
there is a divide between theory and
practice, that it fails to offer a systematic
account for the four principles and that it is
agnostic in approach. Beauchamp himself
writes about what he terms “alleged
competitors” of principlism: impartial rule
theory, casuistry and virtue ethics, and
argues that these are consistent with
principlism and not adversarial to its
methods18. Finally, Gert and Clouser offer a
compelling argument against principlism, as
they indicate in their seminal paper of
199019. This critique later led to their text20,
which also argues against principlism while
advancing its own approach to ethics. They
view principlism as failing to function as
claimed, lacking theory and failing to act as
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
CONCLUSION
Perhaps there is no greater signifier of the
primacy of principlism in modern bioethical
debate than the level of attacks and
challenges it undergoes and withstands. Its
importance for research ethics is undeniable,
and its use on the clinical setting drives
much of modern ethics debates. However, it
is not known how much the use of the four
principles drives the ethical decisions that
need to be made in the chiropractic research
setting, nor how conversant members of
various institutional review or ethics boards
are with regard to them. This suggests that
this area itself may be a fertile one for study.
That there are other approaches to these
debates signals that the field is vital and
39
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence
alive, but much of this debate grows out of
understanding the implications of the
principles in action. And in a postmodern
society, that other, perhaps radically
different, approaches to ethics exist should
hardly be surprising. Taken together, this is
an indication that modern bioethics is more
than a series of arguments about irresolvable
issues such as abortion. Principlism provides
a working set of tools that are used every
day in modern health care.
part series in Br Med J from 1985;290:1117
to 1986;292:543-545.
7. Gillon R. Medical ethics: four principles
plus attention to scope. Br Med J
1994;309:184.
Available
from:
www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/309/6948/18
4.
8. Harris J. In praise of unprincipled ethics. J
Med Ethics 2003;29:303-306.
9. Campbell AV. The virtues and vices of
the four principles. J Med Ethics
2003;29:292-296.
10. McCarthy J Principlism or narrative
ethics: must we choose between them. Med
Humanit 2003;29:65-71.
11. Gillon R. Four scenarios. J Med Ethics
2003;29:267-268.
12. Beauchamp TL. Methods and principles
in biomedical ethics. J Med Ethics
2003;29:269-274.
13. Rawls J. A theory of justice. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press; 1971.
14. Macklin R. Applying the four principles.
J Med Ethics 2003;29:275-280.
15. Dawson A, Garrard E. In defence of
moral imperialism: four equal and universal
prima facie principles. J Med Ethics
2006;32:200-204.
16. Holm S. Not just autonomy- the
principles of American biomedical ethics. J
Med Ethics 1995;21:323-324.
17. Lustig BA. The method of
“principlism”: a critique of the critique. J
Med Philos 1992;17:487-510.
18. Beauchamp TL. Principlism and its
alleged competitors. Kennedy Inst Ethics J
1995;5:181-198.
19. Clouser KD, Gert B. A critique of
principlism. J Med Philos 1990;15:219-236.
20. Gert B, Culver CM, Clouser KD.
Bioethics: a systematic approach. New York
City, NY: Oxford University Press; 2006.
21. Gillon R. Ethics needs principles- four
can encompass the rest- and respect for
autonomy should be “first among equals.” J
Med Ethics 2003;29:307-312.
This paper provides an overview of, and
commentary about, the four principles
developed by Beauchamp and Childress and
which remains the driving force in modern
bioethics. Given its privileged position,
exposing the chiropractic profession to the
concepts the principles entail is be a worthy
endeavor, all the more useful because of the
profession’s growing research and clinical
enterprises.
REFERENCES
1. Beauchamp TL, Childress JF. Principles
of biomedical ethics, 5th ed. New York City,
NY: Oxford University Press; 2001.
2. Engelhardt HT. The foundations of
bioethics, 2nd edition. New York City, NY:
Oxford University Press; 1996.
3. Johnson AR. On the origins and future of
the Belmont Report. In: Childress JF, Meslin
EM, Shapiro HT, editors. Belmont revisited:
ethical principles for research with human
subjects. Washington, DC: Georgetown
University Press; 2005.
4. Feinberg J. Harm to self. In: The moral
limits of criminal law. New York, NY:
Oxford University Press; 1986.
5. Thomasma DC. A philosophy of a
clinically-based medical ethics. J Med
Ethics 1980;6:190-196.
6. Gillon R. Philosophical medical ethics.
Chichester; Wiley, 1986- derived from a 26-
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 2007 © NUHS
40
Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics – Lawrence

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