Toward a Social Bioethics Through Interpretivism: A Framework for Healthcare Ethics

Ryan J. Dougherty, Joseph J. Fins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent global events demonstrate that analytical frameworks to aid professionals in healthcare ethics must consider the pervasive role of social structures in the emergence of bioethical issues. To address this, the authors propose a new sociologically informed approach to healthcare ethics that they term "social bioethics."Their approach is animated by the interpretive social sciences to highlight how social structures operate vis-à-vis the everyday practices and moral reasoning of individuals, a phenomenon known as social discourse. As an exemplar, the authors use social bioethics to reframe common ethical issues in psychiatric services and discuss potential implications. Lastly, the authors discuss how social bioethics illuminates the ways healthcare ethics consultants in both policy and clinical decision-making participate in and shape broader social, political, and economic systems, which then cyclically informs the design and delivery of healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
Early online dateAug 25 2023
StateE-pub ahead of print - Aug 25 2023


  • clinical ethics consultation
  • health equity
  • interpretivism
  • social bioethics
  • sociology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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