Recent developments in professional healthcare pose moral problems that standard bioethics cannot even identify as problems, but that are fully visible when redefined as problems in the ethics of families. Here, we add to the growing body of work that began in the 1990s by demonstrating the need for a distinctive ethics of families. First, we discuss what ‘family’ means and why families can matter so deeply to the lives of those within them. Then, we briefly sketch how, according to an ethics of families, responsibilities must be negotiated against the backdrop of family relationships, treatment decisions must be made in the light of these negotiated responsibilities and justice must be served, both between families and society more generally and within families themselves.
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