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Ethics of Health and Human Flourishing

Program Overview

Health Ethics Type: Vanderbilt Reinvestment Award (VRA)

Since its inception, biomedical ethics has used a model of ethics in which autonomous individuals make high stakes medical decisions. Often described as “principlism,” this model of human moral agency is also the customary focus of bioethics as a discipline and the general paradigm under which bioethics is taught. As a result, it has become the dominant way bioethics is viewed in the culture at large and has been widely appropriated by media coverage and courts of law, reflecting emphasis on individuals decontextualized from their social and community settings. But this approach does not appreciate the rich trans-institutional context in which decisions are made. Even in the most sharply focused individual decisions, there are clusters of moral considerations that form the backdrop of ethical meaning and understanding. This trans-institutional approach is called “everyday ethics,” first because it happens routinely and is thus the largest part of morality in health care, and also because it is always present even in the most sharply focused decisions at the beginning and ending of life. This project is seeking to contextualize ethics in a way that will allow Vanderbilt to make real strides in understanding the moral foundations of health care decisions. 

Faculty Participants

Principal Investigator in bold

Peabody College

College of Arts & Science

Dean of Students

School of Medicine

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