Matters of Life and Death: Making Moral Theory Work in Medical Ethics and the Law

Overview

Philosophical debates over the fundamental principles that should guide life-and-death medical decisions usually occur at a considerable remove from the tough, real-world choices made in hospital rooms, courthouses, and legislatures. David Orentlicher seeks to change that, drawing on his extensive experience in both medicine and law to address the translation of moral principle into practice--a move that itself generates important moral concerns.

Orentlicher uses controversial ...

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Overview

Philosophical debates over the fundamental principles that should guide life-and-death medical decisions usually occur at a considerable remove from the tough, real-world choices made in hospital rooms, courthouses, and legislatures. David Orentlicher seeks to change that, drawing on his extensive experience in both medicine and law to address the translation of moral principle into practice--a move that itself generates important moral concerns.

Orentlicher uses controversial life-and-death issues as case studies for evaluating three models for translating principle into practice. Physician-assisted suicide illustrates the application of ''generally valid rules,'' a model that provides predictability and simplicity and, more importantly, avoids the personal biases that influence case-by-case judgments. The author then takes up the debate over forcing pregnant women to accept treatments to save their fetuses. He uses this issue to weigh the ''avoidance of perverse incentives,'' an approach to translation that follows principles hesitantly for fear of generating unintended results. And third, Orentlicher considers the denial of life-sustaining treatment on grounds of medical futility in his evaluation of the ''tragic choices'' model, which hides difficult life-and-death choices in order to prevent paralyzing social conflict.

Matters of Life and Death is a rich and stimulating contribution to bioethics and law. It is the first book to examine closely the broad problems of translating principle into practice. And by analyzing specific controversies along the way, it develops original insights likely to provoke both moral philosophers and those working on thorny issues of life and death.

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Editorial Reviews

The Journal of Legal Medicine - Dale H. Cowen
A highly thoughtful and useful contribution to our understanding of how moral principles can be translated into practice, with substantial benefit to individual patients and, as well, to the health care system and our larger society.
Journal of the American Medical Association - James A. Anderson and Charles Weijer
By drawing our attention to future real life implications of the implementation of moral principle, this book forces us to reevaluate the balance between theory and practice and is thus well worth reading.
From the Publisher

"Orentlicher makes a compelling case that our understanding of bioethical controversies could be improved by considering how moral concerns are translated from principle into practice."--Choice

"A highly thoughtful and useful contribution to our understanding of how moral principles can be translated into practice, with substantial benefit to individual patients and, as well, to the health care system and our larger society."--Dale H. Cowen, The Journal of Legal Medicine

"By drawing our attention to future real life implications of the implementation of moral principle, this book forces us to reevaluate the balance between theory and practice and is thus well worth reading."--James A. Anderson and Charles Weijer, Journal of the American Medical Association

Choice
Orentlicher makes a compelling case that our understanding of bioethical controversies could be improved by considering how moral concerns are translated from principle into practice.
Journal of the American Medical Association
By drawing our attention to future real life implications of the implementation of moral principle, this book forces us to reevaluate the balance between theory and practice and is thus well worth reading.
— James A. Anderson and Charles Weijer
The Journal of Legal Medicine
A highly thoughtful and useful contribution to our understanding of how moral principles can be translated into practice, with substantial benefit to individual patients and, as well, to the health care system and our larger society.
— Dale H. Cowen
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691089478
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/12/2001
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vii
One: Introduction 1
PART ONE: THE APPROACH OF USING GENERALLY VALID RULES
Two: The Importance of Generally Valid Rules in Implementing Moral Principle 11
Three: The Absence of a Moral Distinction between Treatment Withdrawal and Assisted Suicide 24
Four: The Distinction between Treatment Withdrawal and Assisted Suicide as a Generally Valid Way to Distinguish between Morally Justified and Morally Unjustified Deaths 53
PART TWO: AVOIDING PERVERSE INCENTIVES
Five: The Implications for Practice of a Policy's Perverse Incentives 83
Six: Underlying Moral Principle Permits a Limited Legal Obligation for Pregnant Wowen to Accept Life-Saving Treatment for Their Fetuses 91
Seven: The Problems with a Legal Duty for Pregnant Wowen Because of Perverse Incentives 113
PART THREE: THE "TRAGIC CHOICES" MODEL
Eight: Avoiding Explicit Trade-offs through Implicit Choices 123
Nine: Limitations of the "Futility" Concept in Medical Treatment Decisions 132
Ten: Futility as a Way to Make "Tragic Choices" 153
Conclusion 167
Notes 171
Index 225
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