The Ricoeurian phrônésis and the end-of-life: a valid idea for medical ethics?
The dilemmas arising while experiencing a pathophysiology, along with the ethical and moral implications of the progress of medicine and the complexity of any treatment activation, have given birth to a myriad of moral conflicts within hospital walls, specialized centers and hospices. This led philosophers, bioethicists and moral theologians to reflect on the practical application of ethics in the clinical setting. In fact, ethics has progressively become an integral part of clinical practice in order to manage, deconstruct and solve moral conflicts born in the medical field. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur defines the Aristotelian phrônésis as the preliminary approach to inquire the contextual analysis of reality. This is why in his petite éthique, the practical wisdom – the prudence, as translated from the Latin notion of prudential – forms the starting point to first formulate a clinical judgment and then apply the moral norm in the concrete dimensions of real life. This paper is conceived in the aim to explore the pragmatic role of the Ricoeurian notion of phrônésis in the regional sphere of medical ethics, as the author presents it. The analysis over the contribution of the phrônésis in the conflictual dynamics of clinical settings will be fundamental to identify the interconnections between the notion of phrônésis and two pillar concepts of end-of-life ethics, that is, futility and proportionality.
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