Tanya Fusco Johnson
In the preceding chapters, the contributions have addressed several important issues and dilemmas in ethics and aging. The seven concepts of autonomy, privacy, beneficence, justice, nonmaleficence, fidelity, and accountability have been discussed with varying emphases. In the process of exploring these aspects, the contributors have noted other important parameters. These include personal ethics, the ethics of relationship, ethics and politics, ethics and power, and ethics in a multicultural and multidisciplinary context. In this chapter, the seven ethical concepts will be examined along with these parameters to show how a ''balanced interest'' perspective could be applied in each instance. The chapter will close with a brief discussion of my application of Habermas's ''communicative ethics'' (1990, 1993, 1996), which presents the balanced-interest perspective in decision making.
While it would perhaps make things clearer if I were to adopt a particular ethics ideology or point to propositions or protocols that have guided my thinking, I cannot be that specific. There is so much merit in all of these ''camps'' that it would be limiting not to encompass all, or at least allow for their application. However, the reader must not lose sight of the fact that as a sociologist, my thinking is oriented toward interaction and reciprocal relations. My education in theology has also encouraged a multidisciplinary view. Finally, it is very much the case that my political orientation with a small p is democratic. What follows is informed by these beliefs and biases.
Before we proceed, it is important to define what is meant by a ''balanced'' interest. The discussion of the five elements that follow will illustrate this notion. The term ''balance'' implies a steadiness or equilibrium. It suggests that things are stable or on an even plane. However, this is not what is meant here. Its usage here transcends leveling. Balanced interest supposes that all have an equal hand in making decisions. There is sufficient exchange, joint interaction, and sharing of rights and responsibilities so that balance is not making the best of a bad situation, is not achieved at others' expense, and is not a plan just to preserve the status quo. Rather, it is the outcome of a dynamic process in which decisions are crafted in the interchange of ideas.
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