Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics



SPECIAL SECTION: DIFFERENCE AND THE DELIVERY OF HEALTHCARE

Desperately Seeking Difference


ERIKA BLACKSHER a1
a1 The Hastings Center, Garrison, New York

Abstract

Critics from a variety of camps have argued that bioethics has suffered an indifference to “difference.” Cases have been described as thin and the selves inhabiting them hollow. This criticism has been driven at least in part by a reworked conception of the self. The rational and autonomous self that once dominated bioethics discourse has been replaced with a more “textured” self, a self embedded in stories, relationships, families, communities, cultures, and other “thick” particularity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and experience generally. The import of such a self is not simply descriptive accuracy; these contextual details—these differences—matter. They matter because they figure importantly into our ethical analyses of cases, affecting, for example, how we interact with and treat patients. And with this shift has come increasing attention to the processes of moral inquiry that enable inquirers to gather all of this moral information and find their way from complex cases to context-sensitive responses.



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