The fiction of bioethics: A précis

T. Chambers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Recently, bioethics has become interested in engaging with narrative, but in this engagement, narrative is usually viewed as a mere helpmate to philosophy. In this precis to his book The Fiction of Bioethics, Tod Chambers argues that narrative theory should not be simply a helpful addition to medical ethics but instead should be thought of as being as vital and important to the discipline as moral theory itself. The reason we need to rethink the relationship of medical ethics to narrative is that ethicists test their ideas by applying them to cases, and cases are a narrative genre. Recognizing the importance that cases have for the way medical ethicists do ethics is essential in order to appreciate the field as a form of applied philosophy. Like other forms of representation, narrative has distinct and defining features, which ethicists, in order to understand the data of their field, must learn to recognize and differentiate. Ethicists need to attend to the way decisions about the discourse of a narrative influences the kind of moral theories judged relevant to it. The author briefly examines six features of narrative discourse that rhetorically condition the way we understand medical ethics cases: filter, reportability, closure, characters, chronotope, and gender.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-33
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2001


  • Bioethics
  • Case narratives
  • Ethics theory
  • Narrative ethics
  • Narrative theory
  • Rhetoric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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