Secular Clinical Ethicists Should Not Be Neutral Toward All Religious Beliefs: An Argument for a Moral-Metaphysical Proceduralism

American Journal of Bioethics 21 (6):5-16 (2021)
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Secular clinical ethics has responded to the problem of moral pluralism with a procedural approach. However, defining this term stirs debate: H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. has championed a contentless proceduralism (P1), while others, conversely, argue for a proceduralism that permits some content in the form of moral claims (P2). This paper argues that the content P2 permits ought to be expanded to include some metaphysical commitments, in an approach referred to as P2+. The need for P2+ is demonstrated by analyzing and rejecting three standards (the best interest or harm principle, internal reasonability, and the child’s right to an open future) used by P2 to justify overriding religiously motivated refusals of treatment for children. These approaches fail because each maintains a neutral stance regarding the truth of religious belief. This paper drives at the broader thesis that the proceduralism of secular clinical ethics requires some moral and metaphysical commitments.



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Abram Brummett
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

Citations of this work

Metaphysics, Reason, and Religion in Secular Clinical Ethics.Jason T. Eberl - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 21 (6):17-18.
Strangers at the Altar.Ana Iltis - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 21 (6):19-22.
Bioethicist as Partisan Ideologue.Mark J. Cherry - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 21 (6):22-25.

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