Ultimately, scholarship in bioethics can benefit from the methodologies of both the humanities and the empirical sciences. Normative bioethics provides a framework and guideposts for suggesting how healthcare services ought to be delivered, and what the fiduciary responsibilities of clinicians to patients are. However, normative bioethics is unable to describe and explain how these play out in real life. Moreover, the value placed in the principles of bioethics and the use made of these principals by actors in healthcare settings can only be illuminated using empirical methods. In the final analysis, the best empirical research in bioethics will always be based on a sophisticated understanding of the historical, philosophical, and cultural contexts of the delivery and consumption of healthcare services. Similarly, philosophical debate can often be enriched by an awareness of empirical data.

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