Matters of principle: Agency, practice and identity in clinical bioethics
Frolic, Andrea Nadine
Doctor of Philosophy
This project is an ethnographic investigation of the practices and professional identities of clinical bioethicists working in Canadian and American hospitals. Data collected over a three-year period (September 2000--February 2004) included participant-observation, interviews and the author's own experience working as a clinical bioethicist. Specifically, the author queries the tropes conventionally utilized by clinical bioethicists to describe their emergent profession. Chapter Two examines the trope of the ethics consultant as the paradigmatic moral agent within health care institutions by conceptualizing clinical bioethics as a form of labor, and its practitioners as subjects situated within particular institutions, political economies, social norms and culturally-marked bodies. Chapter Three examines the trope of the clinical bioethicist as an "ethics facilitator" in the practice of ethics consultation through analysis of the emerging standards in ethics consultation, and the opening statements of actual consults. Chapter Four queries the trope of the clinical bioethicist as "cultural broker" by examining the tension between pluralism and normativity in both the clinical bioethics literature and the discourse of ethics consultations. By documenting and analyzing the work of clinical bioethicists ethnographically, this project renders a phenomenology of this emergent profession, as well as a meditation on moral agency within institutional contexts.
Cultural anthropology; Health care management