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Justification and Radiology: Some Ethical Considerations

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In his paper “New Ethical Issues for Radiation Protection in Diagnostic Radiology” Jim Malone refers to the need for the development of what he calls the fundamental ethical basis for the practices in radiology given a period of changing social attitudes. Reporting on the SENTINEL Dublin Workshop, he identified, among others, several ethical issues revolving around justification which arose in the discussions but which deserve further consideration. In this context, he welcomes the contribution that a philosophical perspective can make to the discussions, noting that such a contribution would take the form of identifying and articulating the arguments for and against particular ethical positions.

In my own paper at that Workshop, I tried to show that a philosophical perspective can help not only in contextualizing the ethical discussion itself, that is to say, showing that ethical decision-making is more than just following a code of conduct, but also in providing the broader picture though a discussion of the role of the ethical theories which underpin our judgment of what is right or wrong. A point which I had brought up then—and which I intend to develop further here—is one that is of particular relevance to radiology; namely, that as our knowledge of situations which require action on our part increases, so do the ethical issues. Such a review of the situations and of our own response is part of the ethical challenge itself.

In this essay, which seeks to address the issue of justification in radiology, I intend firstly to comment on the current discussion of the ethical foundation of radiological practice that focuses on the move from utilitarianism to the rights-centred criterion. Secondly, and this will constitute the bulk of my essay written in response to Jim Malone's observations, I want to offer a philosophical perspective which I hope will lead us to consider certain specific areas in ethical decision-making in our attempts to deal with the main issue of justification in radiology.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Ethical Contexts and Theoretical Issues: Essays in Ethical Thinking
    Compared to the traditional approach to the philosophical study of ethics, this book adopts a different strategy. It shows that such ethical thinking, in the concrete particulars, originates in various academic and professional contexts, among others. But inasmuch as theoretical issues require wider and more intensive attention, it argues that ethical thinking needs to be pursued further and that it can be aided by philosophical investigations. In its concluding chapters the book presents an alternative foundation for ethical decision-making. Philosophically grounded, it moves away from an individualistic ethical perspective to a relational one that has been shaped through dialogue with the various contexts in which ethical thinking arises.
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