The brave new world of contemporary bioethics

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A few months ago, I tweeted that today’s ethicists sometimes serve the function that sophists used to fulfill in Ancient Greece: to provide moral cover for the powerful.  A “consensus statement” issued last week by a committee of philosophers and bioethicists  brings some pertinence to my comment.

These international scholars–all from prestigious Western institutions–had met in June in Geneva, Switzerland to take up the question of conscientious objection in healthcare.  Here are the first five points of their ten-point statement, published on the Practical Ethics blog of the University of Oxford philosophy department:

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A deadly choice for the medical profession

"Physician-assisted dying" is a mutual suicide

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As part of the debate on physician-assisted suicide, the San Francisco Medical Society kindly invited me to write an article taking the “contra” position.  Below is the text of the article.  You can find the print version along with the article taking the “pro” position here

When a terminally ill but mentally competent patient wishes to die, should a physician be allowed to bring about such wish?  The California legislature is considering that question, and physicians will soon be asked to weigh in on it.  Until recently, so-called “physician-assisted dying” (PAD) garnered little support among doctors.  Currently, however, enthusiasm in its favor is growing.  What are the reasons given to justify this emerging practice?  Do they truly warrant legal sanction?  And do they justify an about-face from the medical profession’s long-held stance on this matter?

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