"Moral absolutes are unhelpful when making decisions about medical ethics."

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“Moral absolutes are unhelpful when making decisions about medical ethics.”

Some doctors would reject this claim, arguing that moral absolutes help decision making in medical ethics.  For example, the rule ‘Do not kill’ is part of the oath taken by doctors.  Some doctors would agonise over a decision whether to kill a terminally ill patient who has asked to die.  These doctors might then feel guilty if the family turned out to have different wishes, or if a cure was later found for the illness.  Having absolute moral rules helps doctors, because they don’t have to think about the individual circumstances or worry about possible consequences that are impossible to calculate or predict.

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Others claim that this oversimplifies modern medicine.  It is not clear, they may say, what would count as killing someone.  Doctors disagree about the definition of death as ‘brain-stem death’.   Some doctors would consider withholding food as killing a patient, while others would disagree.  Doctors may say that, rather than trying to apply inflexible moral absolutes, it is better to focus on the well-being of the patient.  If giving a high dose of painkillers prevented a patient from dying in agony, doctors might say it doesn’t matter what rules were or weren’t broken.  Others would disagree, saying that ...

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