Human Lives pp 161-181 | Cite as

Intentions in Medical Ethics

  • J. L. A. Garcia


In Western medical ethics, the centre has not held and things are fast falling apart. Some practices long recognized as barbarous in themselves and opposed to the nature and aims of medicine are now routine; others are fast winning acceptance, and even those still beyond the pale have an air of inevitability. Abortion is now one of the most common medical procedures; assisted suicide enjoys broad public support and has won some contests in legislatures and popular referenda; infanticide and passive euthanasia are widespread practices for which some demand legalization and moral legitimation. Flood tides of social change erode our long-held conception of medicine and its associated restraints and pull us into a sea of medical homicide. A new ethic, really a reinvigorated ethic from the Enlightenment, has emerged to grant its moral and intellectual imprimatur to medicine’s lethal new agenda. In it, medical technology is to proceed largely unconstrained by any fear that we degrade humanity when we consider the sick and dying merely as providers of recyclable organs, or when we treat people as objects of manufacture and their parts as commercial goods, or when we experiment on embryos in utero or in test-tubes or on the terminally ill. Indeed, in the emerging ethic, modern medicine’s technological imperative increasingly meets its match only when it runs afoul of the new agenda of death and dehumanization. For these ‘ethicists’ technology systematically loses out only to the fear that it might be used to preserve life our elites deem unworthy, nonautonomous, or undignified, especially the lives of those relegated to their new, Orwellian category of human ‘unpersons’: the brain-damaged, the irreversibly comatose, the unborn, and so on.


Medical Ethic Moral Theory Test Question Narrow Conception Doxastic State 
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Copyright information

© David S. Oderberg and Jacqueline A. Laing 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. L. A. Garcia

There are no affiliations available

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