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Current knowledge in moral cognition can improve medical ethics
  1. S Tassy1,2,3,
  2. P Le Coz1,3,
  3. B Wicker2
  1. 1
    Espace Ethique Méditerranéen, EA 3783, Hôpital de la Timone, Marseilles, France
  2. 2
    Institut de Neurosciences Cognitives de la Méditerranée, UMR 6193 CNRS, Marseilles, France
  3. 3
    Departement de Psychiatrie, Professor Azorin, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Marseilles, France
  1. Dr S Tassy, Département de Psychiatrie, Professor Azorin, CHU Sainte Marguerite, 270 Boulevard de Sainte Marguerite, 13274 Marseilles Cedex 9, France; sebastien.tassy{at}


Physicians frequently face ethical dilemmas when caring for patients. To help them to cope with these, biomedical ethics aims to implement moral norms for particular problems and contexts. As a means of studying the cognitive and neurobiological features underlying the respect for these norms, moral cognitive neuroscience could help us to understand and improve ethical questioning. The article reviews recent developments in the field and presents neurobiological arguments to highlight why some moral rules are universally shared and why some ethical responses are very dependent on context.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • PL is Professor of Philosophy, Member of the French National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences and Member of the French Agency of Biomedicine.

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