Queen Christina’s moral claim on the living: Justification of a tenacious moral intuition [Book Review]

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10 (3):321-327 (2007)
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Abstract

In the long-running debate on the interest of the dead, Joan C. Callahan argues against such interests and although Søren Holm for practical reasons is prepared to consider posthumous interests, he does not see any moral basis to support such interests. He argues that the whole question is irresolvable, yet finds privacy interests where Tutankhamen is concerned. Callahan argues that there can be reasons to hold on to the fiction that there are posthumous interests, namely if it is comforting for the living and instrumental for society. Thus, despite arguing against the position that the dead have any interests or for any moral basis for such interests, these “interests” are still taken into consideration in the end. This shows the unsatisfactory basis of their positions and indicates the tenacity of the moral intuition that the dead can have moral claims on the living. One example of a posthumous interest is the interest in one’s good name. Here we argue that it is an interest of moral significance. This implies that if individuals restrict use of their sample when they are still alive, those restrictions apply after their death. Further, it implies that one should be concerned with the reputation of historic persons. Research that defeats these interests calls for justification. We have suggested two lines of thinking along which such a discussion could go: investigating the truth-value of the good name and the relevance of bringing it into possible disrepute

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Mats J. Hansson
Uppsala Universitet

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