Posted on July 16, 2013 at 1:28 PM
Personally, I think clinical ethics has accepted a paradigm of priestly rationalism that is alien to the experienced phenomenon of life. When my father dies, it is not a biological event, it is a personal one. It is a social one–the Procrustean constructions of clinical ethics simply do not fit the dimensions of that experience.
Our rationalism and pursuit of objectivity estranges us from life. This estrangement is compounded by the fact that most bioethicists write from the most extreme technological enclave of medicine–tertiary care treatment centers. In this environment and from this experience, life becomes flattened–two dimensional in the words of Jacques Ellul. And we would export those expensive and scarce technological redefinitions of diagnosis and treatment to the broader community despite the fact that they can not be widely implemented, are unaffordable, and would be inherently unjustly available or applied.
There is a further problem–call it the Godel (or What is the square root of -1?) problem. Bioethics’ hubristic and extreme embrace of mastery by rationalism must generate endless cascades of new paradoxes which in turn spur more extreme rationalism and defy resolution. As we attempt to rationally subjugate the ever expanding tiers of paradoxes created by our hyperrefined art–we become both more estranged from lived and experienced phenomenon and we must necessarily declare that those who are closest to the phenomenon lack the expertise to understand or address it. In this sense, we expropriate lived-life from those living it.
The resolution to this problem in bioethics is not clear and certainly not easy. Certainly we need a phenomenological ethics–one which puts the experience of persons and social units like families at the forefront, one which constrains machines and machine-logic to the ebbs and flows of quotidian conversations.
I hope this clarifies matters or at least shows how muddled I have become.
Graphic: From Google Images