In their intriguing article “Bioethics and the Moral Authority of Experience,” Nelson and colleagues (2023) provide important insight into an important ethical problem. We frequently demand that those participating in a decision have relevant experience. But we also worry that a person’s cognitive judgment may be warped if they have a certain experience: They may lack objectivity or they might be “too close” to a situation. The authors offer examples where this dilemma arises, involving abortion, drug approval, and disability bioethics. The authors offer a description of the problem, and then build a normative framework. I complicate and clarify on both fronts by asking what counts as a “relevant experience” that can either qualify or disqualify a participant in a decision. Descriptively, I provide a taxonomy of “experience” that would enrich the authors’ framework. Normatively, I explore the concept of “relevance.” After a descriptive clarification, I argue that the normative stakes are better understood as arising from substantive and procedural justice considerations.

Craig Konnoth, The Problem of “Relevant Experience”, 23 American Journal of Bioethics 36–38 (2023).