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Towards an Empirical Test for the Reasonable Person Standard in Bioethics

Horowitz, Elijah (2012) Towards an Empirical Test for the Reasonable Person Standard in Bioethics. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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As Robert Veatch observes, bioethics as a field is fundamentally oriented towards being “applied to real problems of the real world.” That is, although theories of ethics do play a role in the field, these theories must be “integrate[d]…with detailed knowledge of the relevant facts and customs of a particular sphere of life.” One way of making this progression is to follow the two-tiered system of standard and operational test such as that used by Allen Buchanan and Dan Brock in their discussion of their balancing model of competence. In this paper I will argue in favor of a representative (although not naïve) empirical operational test for the reasonable person standard. In each of the three sections that comprise the first chapter, I will identify the normative goals of a bioethical context and compare the reasonable person standard to its main competitors in light of those goals. Then, in the second half of the paper, I will defend both the reasonable person standard itself and the use of empirical data as an operational test for it. This defense will only be a partial one, however, as there are certain limits to the empirical approach. The goal of this paper is to show how empirical data can be used, albeit with some limitations, to help bring some clarity and precision to a standard that is often criticized for lacking precisely those qualities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairParker, Lisa S.lisap@pitt.eduLISAP
Committee MemberMeisel, Alanmeisel@pitt.eduMEISEL
Committee MemberWicclair, Markwicclair@pitt.eduWICCLAIR
Date: 19 September 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 April 2012
Approval Date: 19 September 2012
Submission Date: 16 May 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 64
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Bioethics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: bioethics, reasonable person, medical ethics, reasonable person standard, empirical ethics
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2012 14:25
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:02

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