Ethical Perspectives 11 (4):250-258 (2004)

Christopher Cowley
University College Dublin
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. Here the law reacted one way, 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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DOI 10.2143/EP.11.4.519090
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