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 clear rules are essential to protect patients and doctors.
Doctors who had to kill Mary to save Jodie believed that the positive outcome to Jodie was a more important consideration than whether killing Mary broke an absolute rule.
Some people agree with moral absolutes concerning foetuses. Many Roman Catholics argue that the foetus is human from the moment of conception and should be protected by law. The Church of England does not take an absolutist stance on abortion. They disagree that a foetus is a person at the earliest stages, and believe that moral absolutes such as ‘Abortion is wrong’ lead to greater evils, such as forcing a very young child who has been raped to risk her life having a baby.
Stem-cell research holds out the hope of providing cures that would save millions of lives. Situation Ethicists may believe that allowing such research is the compassionate, loving thing to do. The Catholic Church teaches that it is always wrong to kill an embryo. This particular moral absolute is considered unhelpful by supporters of stem cell research. It doesn’t take into account the positive consequences to many millions of people. However, some Christians try to hold onto absolute principles while supporting the research. They might agree that it is wrong to kill, but might believe human life begins at a much later stage, meaning that stem-cell research is acceptable.