Lethal injection, autonomy and the proper ends of medicine

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Abstract:

Gerald Dworkin has argued that it is inconsistent with the proper ends of medicine for a physician to participate in an execution by lethal injection. He does this by proposing a principle by which we are to judge whether an action is consistent with the proper ends of medicine. I argue: (a) that this principle, if valid, does not show that it is inconsistent with the proper ends of medicine for a physician to participate in an execution by lethal injection; and (b) that this principle is not valid, and this is because it mistakenly views the promotion of patient autonomy as one of the proper ends of medicine. Rather, I propose, we should view respect for a patient's autonomy as a constraint on the pursuit of the proper ends of medicine, rather than as one of the proper ends itself. With this revised understanding of the proper ends of medicine, we can conclude that it is inconsistent with the proper ends of medicine for a physician to participate in an execution by lethal injection.

Document Type: Discussion

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8519.00333

Affiliations: Philosophy Department, University of Delaware, USA, Email: dsilver@udel.edu

Publication date: April 1, 2003

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