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Revisiting the Fact/Value Dichotomy: A Speech Act Approach to Improve the Integration of Ethics in Health Technology Assessment

DOI: 10.4236/ojpp.2018.85042, PP. 578-593

Keywords: Fact/Value Dichotomy, Ethics, HTA, Health Technology Assessment

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Abstract:

Philosophers engaged in the field of applied ethics are often challenged to revisit certain philosophical debates in order to clarify the background concepts involved in a given undertaking at stake. This is particularly evident in the field of Health Technological Assessment (HTA) where the integration of ethics has been a debate for many years. Interdisciplinary technological assessment involves a head-on discussion between the frame of reference of natural sciences and those of philosophy, which often reproduce the fact/value dichotomy debated in the field of philosophy. The challenge for a philosopher is then to explain how the fact/value dichotomy has been criticized by philosophers in such a way that the distinction between “verifiable facts” and “unverifiable values” cannot be accounted for anymore. The critiques of H. Putnam and S. E. Toulmin were the first steps towards the understanding of the dichotomy. A speech act approach, based on J. L. Austin illocutionary acts, can shed a new light on this issue by clarifying the difference between assertions, evaluations and prescriptions. By using a speech-act approach we can define the respective role of scientific evaluation and ethical evaluation in the HTA process and offer a better guide for the decision-makers on all aspects of adopting a technological development in health.

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