Communitarian Bioethics: Three Case Studies

Michael L. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, communitarianism has turned bioethics away from an overwhelming emphasis on liberal individualism. Growing emphasis on the common good has created no few dilemmas for medical practitioners used to weighing the interests of their patients above all else. Three cases exemplify the conflict between community and individual interests. The first is the Israel Patient Rights Act (IPRA), a first of its kind statute that allows hospital ethics committees to impose lifesaving treatment on competent patients who refuse medical care. The second case investigates the medical treatment of wounded soldiers and suggests that community based obligations may, in some circumstances, allow physicians to give priority to treating compatriots over non-compatriots. The last case discusses force feeding political detainees. While many physicians are resolved to preserve a hunger striker's right to refuse food, many state governments are equally resolved to feed them. Hunger striking sets the stage for a classic battle between respect for autonomy and concerns about the public welfare that communitarian principles can help resolve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-361
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Communitarian bioethics
  • Ethics of care
  • Force-feeding
  • Military ethics
  • Military medicine
  • Patient rights
  • Triage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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