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Empirical Methods in Bioethics: A Cautionary Tale

Clarence H. Braddock III, MD, MPH; and David Magnus, PhD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA 94305-5475, and Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5475.

Potential Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed. Forms can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M10-0293.

Requests for Single Reprints: Clarence H. Braddock III, MD, MPH, Division of General Internal Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center, MSOB, Room X210, MC 5475, 251 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA 94305-5475; e-mail, cbrad@stanford.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Braddock: Division of General Internal Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center, Medical School Office Building, Room X210, MC 5475, 251 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA 94305-5475.

Dr. Magnus: Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, 701 Welch Road, #1105, Palo Alto, CA 94305.

Ann Intern Med. 2010;152(6):396-397. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-152-6-201003160-00011
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Bioethicists and others have argued about the proper role for empirical research in addressing ethical concerns because of the increased use of social science, health services, and outcomes research methods in the medical ethics domain. In fact, a long tradition in normative ethics, the branch of ethics that seeks to make definitive arguments about what we ought to do, scoffs at attempting to derive conclusions about what one ought to do from empirical observations about what people actually do (12).

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