Making Clinical Ethical Decisions: Common Fallacies: Introduction
Hospital ethics committees have as one of their duties, facilitating the decision making process of the stakeholders involved in a clinical situation dealing with the management and care of a patient. The facilitating process involves both education of the stakeholders with regard to the ethical consensus and the applied laws but also involves a skill of mediation, helping each stakeholder to understand and consider the issues that the others are having and attempting, by working with everyone, to get all parties to come to some agreeable final decision which is legally and ethically acceptable.
A mechanism of human misunderstanding which can interfere with this process is that of “fallacies”. Fallacies are misconceptions or illogical expressions which may be part of an argument. They are sometimes unrecognized by all or may be known to the one making an argument to another and sometimes they may be purposely used to win the argument. Generally, fallacies do nothing constructive except to shut down the discussion or distort the facts.The possibility that fallacies may be occurring during a hospital ethics committee consultation is an important consideration both of the ethics consultants but also t he stakeholders themselves. Everyone should be aware of fallacies, look for them, recognize them in the development of an argument but then eliminate or defuse them so they won’t affect logical decision-making.
The first fallacy to be considered is “ad hominem” which is translated “to the man”: switching the discussion from the argument or defense of the facts presented to an attack the opponent as a person. ..Maurice.