Interpretation and dialogue in hermeneutic ethics

Guy Widdershoven*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In healthcare practice, patients and their caregivers can sometimes be confronted with complex and difficult problems. The situation confronting Jane and Phyllis in the case described in Chapter 2 is a good example. Should Jane have a mastectomy or not? This is not an easy question for her, or for those around her (her husband, her friends and the various healthcare professionals who are involved). Should Phyllis (be made to) cooperate by providing access to her test results? Although Phyllis is outspoken in her refusal, this does not mean that the professionals agree that the case is closed. Those who find themselves in cases such as this one are often uncertain about how to make sense of the situation in which they find themselves. They come up with solutions at one moment, and have doubts about them the next. The participants often have very different views about what is to be done, depending on their former experiences and background. One way to approach such problems is to try to do away with ambiguities and to reach an objective impartial view of the situation. With this view, if people are hesitant about what would count as appropriate solutions, this is because they do not yet have enough information about risks and benefits, and have not adequately made up their minds about their preferences. Here, if people have different views of the situation, we need to investigate which view is (more) correct.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCase Analysis in Clinical Ethics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780511545450
ISBN (Print)9780521835497
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

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