REMINDER: I AM POSTING A NEW TOPIC ABOUT ONCE A WEEK OR PERHAPS TWICE A WEEK. HOWEVER, IF YOU DON'T FIND A NEW TOPIC POSTED, THERE ARE AS OF MARCH 2013 OVER 900 TOPIC THREADS TO WHICH YOU CAN READ AND WRITE COMMENTS. I WILL BE AWARE OF EACH COMMENTARY AND MAY COME BACK WITH A REPLY.
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Making Clinical Ethical Decisions: Common Fallacies: 4. Argumentum ad Verecundiam
Argumentum ad verecundiam literally meaning "argument from authority" may be an easy way to get a point across in the process of discussion or debate regarding an ethical decision of a medical situation but alone it is incomplete. Simply saying that "Professor Jones has concluded that such an approach is ethical" or "Doctor Smith says that this will be the clinical outcome" without Professor Jones or Doctor Smith presenting the factual basis and logic for each to arrive at their conclusions is inadequate. It is essential that in a clinical ethics consultative meeting, both the ethics committee members and the stakeholders of the case are made aware of all the facts and how the doctor interpreted the facts to come to his or her conclusion. The academic degree of the individual is of value to be aware of the individual's area of training but tells nothing about how some conclusion expressed by that individual was reached.
Looking at these professional resources as an "authority" is misleading with regard to any specific case. Authority may mean that the individual has the training, has the experience, may have done research and may have published articles or books and may be recognized by others for all this and for their value as a resource for others but realistically that is still not enough to accept an authority's conclusion without having been presented and understanding the basis for that conclusion. That is why when a case is being discussed in ethics consultation, it is important that the professor or doctor are present either better in person or, if unable, by phone communication rather than by a view presented by another person "second handed". The authority must be able to hear the active discussion and reply to direct questions.
Authorities are of value for their general knowledge and specific knowledge and relationship of facts regarding which neither the members of the ethics committee or stakeholders of the case may be so educated. Everyone should be dealing with the one specific medical case at hand and not generalized scenarios and that is why frank and unquestioned acceptance of an argument from authority is unacceptable. ..Maurice.