Abstract Contemporary bioethics generally stipulates that public moral deliberation must avoid allowing religious beliefs to influence or justify health policy and law. Secular premises and arguments are assumed to maintain the neutral, common ground required for moral deliberation in the public square of a pluralistic society. However, a careful examination of non-theistic arguments used to justify euthanasia (regarding contested notions of human dignity, individual autonomy, and death as annihilation) reveals a dependence on metaethical and metaphysical beliefs that are not universally accepted in a pluralistic society. Such beliefs function in non-theistic arguments in the same way that foundational beliefs justify moral convictions in religious frameworks of belief. This parallel is apparent when religious belief is defined broadly (a la John Reeder) as ‘the search for the good in light of the limits and possibilities of the real.’ Seen through this interpretive lens, frameworks comprising Secular foundational commitments function, in ethically relevant respects, like the guiding beliefs found in the comprehensive frameworks of traditional religions. When conscientious practice in healthcare is reconsidered in light of this foundational similarity between the religious and the secular, it is clear that those who object to the foundational beliefs underpinning Secular arguments for euthanasia should not be required to provide, participate in, or refer patients for euthanasia (or other ethically controversial practices similarly dependent on contested frameworks of belief) in pluralistic societies that prize moral freedom as a primary human good.
Abstract In his work on medical ethics, Lauris Kaldjian identifies conscience with integrity. However, there are competing notions of integrity that may guide the conscience. This paper addresses debates over conscientious refusals by considering Cicero’s account of integrity, a conception previously not discussed in the context of this debate. Cicero offers a framework for understanding integrity and conscience for the physician that is an alternative to Alasdair MacIntyre’s notion of the completely unified life, an idea appropriated by Kaldjian in his argument that there can be no clean distinction between personal, private, practical reasoning and moral decision-making. Cicero’s account rejects the modern-individualist idea of the autonomous self living a wholly compartmentalized life. It agrees with Kaldjian’s stress on flexible decision- making, the internal morality of medicine, the importance of virtues, and the need to accommodate pluralism. However, Ciceronian integrity is better suited than the MacIntyreian account to our present liberal order. It offers a place for the “moral hero” while recognizing that the vast majority of moral agents will be “progressors” who lack the consistency of the moral hero’s fully integrated life. The inclusion of both types of individuals in the medical field may offset the potentially harmful tendencies to which each is prone.
Abstract The moral pluralism of Western democratic societies results in ethical differences among citizens and health professionals, due to contrasts between the foundational beliefs and values on which their ethical convictions rest. Some of these differences have challenging implications for the practice of medicine when a patient seeks access to a legal medical service that a conscientiously acting physician believes is unethical. Such disagreements raise pivotal questions about competing ethical values, the moral dynamic of shared decision-making, the meaning of conscience, and the extent to which society will accept ethical differences in professional practice. The act of referral is the focal point of this essay, because it appears to be at the front line of some current debates and legal contests about the extent to which society is willing to accommodate conscientious practice by physicians. Some see referrals as a way to balance respect for physician integrity with promotion of patient autonomy; others see referrals as a mistaken attempt at compromise that misunderstands the meaning of moral responsibility and participation. Understanding conscience as integrity helps explain the moral seriousness of conscientious practice and reinforces the need for professional and legal accommodations that respect it.
Lauris Christoper Kaldjian. Practicing Medicine and Ethics: Integrating Wisdom, Conscience and Goals of Care. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014, 296 pp. ISBN 10- 1107012163
Publisher’s Description To practice medicine and ethics, physicians need wisdom and integrity to integrate scientific knowledge, patient preferences, their own moral commitments, and society’s expectations. This work of integration requires a physician to pursue certain goals of care, determine moral priorities, and understand that conscience or integrity require harmony among a person’s beliefs, values, reasoning, actions, and identity. But the moral and religious pluralism of contemporary society makes this integration challenging and uncertain. How physicians treat patients will depend on the particular beliefs and values they and other health professionals bring to each instance of shared decision making. This book offers a framework for practical wisdom in medicine that addresses the need for integrity in the life of each health professional. In doing so, it acknowledges the challenge of moral pluralism and the need for moral dialogue and humility as professionals fulfil their obligations to patients, themselves, and society.