Chapter 14. Applications: Biomedical Ethics
Section 4. Questions

The text has covered many of the foundational ethical concepts, distinctions, and theories.  Now  some fairly complex essays dealing with pretty complicated ethical issues will be presented.  The reader is better prepared to recognize the ethical principles that will appear in those texts.

You are asked to consider certain questions in light of those readings and to formulate your own position on the issue or the case.

The reader should have enough sophistication to respond to ethical dilemmas with a more considered and reflective and informed set of sentences and perhaps a well formulated position resting upon explicitly stated set of ethical principles.   There should be no use of such trite phrases as: "well, if it's true for him, who am I to say what's right", or "ethics is subjective -- there cannot be an answer", etc.

Such responses are woefully inadequate not only for someone who has studied ethics but also for a society that needs a resolution to moral dilemmas and conflicts.  There are theoretical objections to such responses, which were covered in the early chapters, and then there is the psychological objection -- that such responses are not much more than a "cop-out" -- an excuse for not doing the hard analytic work they (and ethics in general) demand.

So now you are to read the texts supplied and answer the questions following them.

The topics listed in this chapter cover a wide range of issues.  Some of them and indirectly all of them deal with life and death.  Some of the most difficult deal with attempts to gain some control over human death. Although it is obvious that death is the most personal and individual of experiences, it is not without social impact and implication. It is just too simple (and wrong) to say that I should have control over all the details of my death (suicide, physician assisted suicide,  active voluntary euthanasia), and I should have control over the details of other people's death (euthanasia, abortion, etc.)

Here are two different views of an issue , a process, a procedure that is directly about life and death.


 Read about   J.J. Thomson's essay, " A Defense of Abortion"
In J.J. Thomson's essay, " A Defense of Abortion" she attempts to construct a long, winding argument which defends the moral right of a "mother" to have an abortion under a variety of circumstances. In the course of her argument she defends the legitimacy of abortions under a number of different scenarios beginning with cases in which a woman is raped. Pick three of the scenarios in which Thomson argues that the woman has a moral right to terminate the pregnancy, and explain the reasoning that Thomson's uses in her defense. 

Evaluate the arguments Thomson gives. Are they persuasive? Are they inadequate?

Sidney Callahan on Bad arguments: twenty-five years after 'Roe.'  (abortion arguments)

In Sidney Callahan's article, she directly addresses reasons that prochoice feminists typically give in order to legitimate abortion as a legal and moral option. Examine the reasons that, according to Callahan, prochoice feminists employ in order to defend the woman's "moral right" to have an abortion, and explain why, from her perspective, these arguments fail.

Evaluate the arguments Callahan gives. Are they persuasive? Are they inadequate?


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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

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