Might there be a medical conscience

Nir Ben-Moshe


I defend the feasibility of a medical conscience in the following sense: a medical professional can object to the prevailing medical norms because they are incorrect as medical norms. In other words, I provide an account of conscientious objection that makes use of the idea that the conscience can issue true normative claims, but the claims in question are claims about medical norms rather than about general moral norms. I further argue that in order for this line of reasoning to succeed, there needs to be an internal morality of medicine that determines what medical professionals ought to do qua medical professionals. I utilize a constructivist approach to the internal morality of medicine and argue that medical professionals can conscientiously object to providing treatment X, if providing treatment X is not in accordance with norms that would have been constructed, in light of the end of medicine, by the appropriate agents under the appropriate conditions.

Ben‐Moshe, N. Might there be a medical conscience? Bioethics. 2019; 33: 835– 841. https://doi.org/10.1111/bioe.12611

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