Some Random Thoughts by Ethicists on Truisms in Ethics
I put the topic of truisms in ethics up on a bioethics listserv and got the following responses. Read their commentary. They may stimulate some thoughts on a variety of topics. ..Maurice.
Ethicist and physician, Steven Miles, wrote about the topic of truisms in ethics:
Cloning humans is an bioethics problem. (A truism even the problem itself is unimportant.)
Respect for the principle of autonomy is the highest medical ethics value (True in describing the field but arguable at best as a moral position.)
Another ethicist and physician Dr Erich H. Loewy wrote this commentary about truisms.
If you have doubts as to what the ethical way of proceeding is an ethicist may give you the Answer: There are many false assumptions wrapped in that statement.
· First we must realize that Ethicists are no more "ethical" than others. They merely know what tools and how to deal with them in judging answers as appropriate or inappropriate and things in between.
· Secondly beware of an ethicist who gives you an answer. If there were a "good" answer there would be no problem. Answers in general are rather bad in themselves, words in themselves or simply God awful. Taking a patient off a vent and letting him/her die peacefully is not a good in itself. Curing them would be but that is not attainable. So perhaps this is still the least evil answer in an array of bad ones.
· If you have doubts that is the most important part--for at least you recognize that there is an ethical problem. .
· It really is the job of an ethicist to question prior assumptions, insist that good ethics begins with good facts, and keep raising questions "what makes you say that", "why do you believe such and such to be true", etc.
· Regrettably there is no such thing as a Bioethicist. People who have sat a year on an ethics committee call themselves ethicists. And how can we correct them: we have failed to credential, have failed to set minimum standards, do not police ourselves and fail to discharge our social responsibility (ie; we run a mutual debating society that discusses the problems of "rich man's ethics" but almost never does more than pay lip service to access to health care or to the conditions which breed disease--poverty, crowding, lack of education, a minimal wage under the poverty level, etc. Instead we amuse ourselves with the weighty issue of whom the sperm of a dead man belongs.
Cannibalism is evil: Cannibalism to start with was to symbolically take someone’s strength into ones body-in some cultures enemy in others relative. The missionary being boiled is a fiction. Those who are Christian commit cannibalism every time they take community: symbolic cannibalism in most Protestant sects, actual cannibalism of your group believes in transubstantiation. So, what is wrong with that? It is what I meant by saying we need to examine our taboos, presumptions, etc. and not yield to an ethical imperialism no prettier than any other kind.
Physicians should/should not participate in Capital Punishment:
· Personally I detest the very idea.of capital punishment. Belonging to a society that practices this I am guilty every time someone is executed and state-condoned or ordered murder is still murder. And I don't like killing people.
· But that is beside the point. If the physician believes that capital punishment is a good thing than he can participate in shooting, electrocution or hanging. He/she cannot participate with any of the intellectual or actual tools they learned in the process of their training and which were taught to benefit and if possible not to harm man. Declaring someone dead is learned in medical school and, therefore, should not be done as a regular (and necessary) member of a team which executes on a regular basis.