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    The assumptions of ethical rationing: an unreasonable man's response to Magelssen et al.

    Loughlin, M (2017) The assumptions of ethical rationing: an unreasonable man's response to Magelssen et al. Clinical Ethics, 12 (2). pp. 63-69. ISSN 1477-7509

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    Contributors to the debate on ethical rationing bring with them assumptions about the proper role of moral theories in practical discourse, which seem reasonable, realistic and pragmatic. These assumptions function to define the remit of bioethical discourse and to determine conceptions of proper methodology and causal reasoning in the area. However well intentioned, the desire to be realistic in this sense may lead us to judge the adequacy of a theory precisely with reference to its ability to deliver apparently determinate answers to questions that strike most practitioners and patients as morally arbitrary. By providing ethical solutions that work given the world as it is, work in clinical ethics may serve to endorse or protect from scrutiny the very structures that need to change if real moral progress is to be possible. Such work can help to foster the illusion that fundamentally arbitrary decisions are ‘grounded’ in objective, impartial reasoning, bestowing academic credibility on policies and processes, making it subsequently harder for others to criticise those processes. As theorists, we need to reflect on our political role and how best to foster virtuous, critical practice, if we are to avoid making contributions to the debate that not only do no good, but may even be harmful. A recent debate in this journal illustrates these issues effectively.

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