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The Diane Pretty case and the occasional impotence of justification in ethics.

Authors
  • 1
  • 1 School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. [email protected]
Type
Published Article
Journal
Ethical perspectives
Publication Date
Volume
11
Issue
4
Pages
250–258
Identifiers
PMID: 15813001
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Most discussions in ethics argue that a certain practice or act is morally justified, with any underlying theory taken as supporting a guide to general action by aiding discovery of the objectively and singularly right thing to do. I suggest that this oversimplifies the agent's own experience of the moral dilemma, and I take the recent English case of Diane Pretty's request for assisted suicide as an example. The law refused, despite the obvious sympathy many felt for her. This only appears paradoxical, I suggest, because too much is expected of the concept of justification, and because moral understanding of a particular case is too often reduced to the legalistic search for general justificatory reasons. The starting point should be, I conclude, a full awareness of the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I".

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