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A new prescription for empirical ethics research in pharmacy: a critical review of the literature
  1. R J Cooper,
  2. P Bissell,
  3. J Wingfield
  1. Centre for Pharmacy, Health and Society, The University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 R J Cooper
 Centre for Pharmacy, Health and Society, The University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK; paxrjc{at}


Empirical ethics research is increasingly valued in bioethics and healthcare more generally, but there remain as yet under-researched areas such as pharmacy, despite the increasingly visible attempts by the profession to embrace additional roles beyond the supply of medicines. A descriptive and critical review of the extant empirical pharmacy ethics literature is provided here. A chronological change from quantitative to qualitative approaches is highlighted in this review, as well as differing theoretical approaches such as cognitive moral development and the four principles of biomedical ethics. Research with pharmacy student cohorts is common, as is representation from American pharmacists. Many examples of ethical problems are identified, as well as commercial and legal influences on ethical understanding and decision making. In this paper, it is argued that as pharmacy seeks to develop additional roles with concomitant ethical responsibilities, a new prescription is needed for empirical ethics research in pharmacy—one that embraces an agenda of systematic research using a plurality of methodological and theoretical approaches to better explore this under-researched discipline.

  • CMD, cognitive moral development
  • DIT, Defining Issues Test

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  • Competing interests: None.