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American Journal of Bioethics.

Why Bioethics Should Be Concerned With Medically Unexplained Symptoms

Biomedical diagnostic science is a great deal less successful than we’ve been willing to acknowledge in bioethics, and this fact has far-reaching ethical implications. In this article I consider the surprising prevalence of medically unexplained symptoms, and the term’s ambiguous meaning. Then I frame central questions that remain answered in this context with respect to informed consent, autonomy, and truth-telling. Finally, I show that while considerable attention in this area is given to making sure not to provide biological care to patients without a need, comparatively little is given to the competing, ethically central task of making sure never to obstruct access to biological care for those with diagnostically confusing biological conditions. I suggest this problem arises from confusion about the philosophical value of vagueness when it comes to the line between biological and psychosocial needs.

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Volume 18, Issue 5
May 2018