In this article we argue that the worries about whether a consequentialist agent will be alienated from those who are special to her go deeper than has so far been appreciated. Rather than pointing to a problem with the consequentialist agent's motives or purposes, we argue that the problem facing a consequentialist agent in the case of friendship concerns the nature of the psychological disposition which such an agent would have and how this kind of disposition sits with those which (...) are commonly thought proper to relations of friendship. To the extent that we are right, then, the rejoinders which indirect consequentialists have offered to the problem of alienation are ill directed and so do not succeed in meeting the real problem. In articulating what we see as the source of the alienation problem which friendship poses for consequentialism, we also hope to clarify the general distinction between dispositions and motives and to show how certain kinds of guiding internalized normative dispositions help us to define and therefore distinguish between various types of relationships. Undertaking this task may also help to identify some of the crucial issues for an adequate moral psychology of friendship and its place in any plausible ethical theory. (shrink)
This paper argues that the provision of effective informed consent by surgical patients requires the disclosure of material information about the comparative clinical performance of available surgeons. We develop a new ethical argument for the conclusion that comparative information about surgeons' performance - surgeons' report cards - should be provided to patients, a conclusion that has already been supported by legal and economic arguments. We consider some recent institutional and legal developments in this area, and we respond to some common (...) objections to the use of report cards on the clinical performance of surgeons. (shrink)
The standard problem with many slippery slope arguments is that they fail to provide us with the necessary evidence to warrant our believing that the significantly morally worse circumstances they predict will in fact come about. As such these arguments have widely been criticised as ‘scare-mongering’. Consequentialists have traditionally been at the forefront of such criticisms, demanding that we get serious about guiding our prescriptions for right action by a comprehensive appreciation of the empirical facts. This is not surprising, since (...) consequentialism has traditionally been committed to the idea that right action be driven by empirical realities, and this hard-headed approach has been an especially notable feature of Australian consequentialism. But this apparent empirical hard-headedness is very selective. While consequentialists have understood their moral outlook and commitments as guided by a partnership with empirical science – most explicitly in their replies to the arguments of their detractors – some consequentialists have been remarkably complacent about providing empirical support for their own prescriptions. Our key example here is the consequentialist claim that our current practises of partiality in fact maximise the good, impartially conceived. This claim has invariably been made without compelling support for the large empirical claims upon which it rests, and so, like the speculative empirical hand-waving of weak slippery slope arguments, it seems similarly to be undermined. While these arguments have presented us with ‘wishful thinking’ rather than ‘scare-mongering’, we argue in this paper that their complacency in meeting the relevant empirical justificatory burden remains much the same. (shrink)
In many recent discussions of the morality of actions where both good and bad consequences foreseeably ensue, the moral significance of the distinction between intended and foreseen consequences is rejected. This distinction is thought to bear on the moral status of actions by those who support the Doctrine of Double Effect. According to this doctrine, roughly speaking, to perform an action intending to bring about a particular bad effect as a means to some commensurate good end is impermissible, while performing (...) an action where one intends only this good end and merely foresees the bad as an unintended sideeffect may be permissible. Consequentialists argue that this is a distinction which makes no moral difference to the evaluation of the initial act in the two cases, given that the overall consequences are the same in each case. In this paper we aim to show that a standard consequentialist line of argument against the moral relevance of the intention/foresight distinction fails. Consequentialists commonly reject the moral relevance of this distinction on the grounds that there is no asymmetry in moral responsibility between intending and foreseeing evil. We argue that even if this claim about moral responsibility is correct, it does not entail, as many Consequentialists believe, that there is no moral asymmetry between acts of intended and foreseen evil. We go on to argue that those consequentialists who do concede the moral relevance of the intention/foresight distinction at the level of agent evaluations cannot consistently make such a concession, and that such a position is in any case untenable, because it entails a complete severance of important conceptual connections between act and agent evaluations. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant argues in the Foundations that remote scenarios are diagnostic of genuine virtue. When agents commonly thought to have a particular virtue fail to exhibit that virtue in an extreme situation, he argues, they do not truly have the virtue at all, and our propensities to fail in such ways indicate that true virtue might never have existed. Kant’s suggestion that failure to show, say, courage in extraordinary circumstances necessarily silences one’s claim to have genuine courage seems to rely (...) on an implausibly demanding standard for warranted virtue attributions. In contrast to this approach, some philosophers—such as Robert Adams and John Doris—have argued for probabilistic accounts of warranted virtue attributions. But despite the initial plausibility of such accounts, I argue that a sole reliance on probabilistic approaches is inadequate, as they are insufficiently sensitive to considerations of credit and fault, which emerge when agents have developed various insurance strategies and protective capacities against their responding poorly to particular eventualities. I also argue that medical graduates should develop the sorts of virtuous dispositions necessary to protect patient welfare against various countervailing influences, and that repeated failures to uphold the proper goals of medicine in emergency scenarios might indeed be diagnostic of whether an individual practitioner does have the relevant medical virtue. In closing, I consider the dispositions involved in friendship. I seek to develop a principled way of determining when remote scenarios can be illuminating of genuine friendship and genuine virtue. (shrink)
In light of controversy surrounding the initial online publication of Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva's article on ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ in the Journal of Medical Ethics,1 ….
This timely book analyses and evaluates ethical and social implications of recent developments in reporting surgeon performance. It contains chapters by leading international specialists in philosophy, bioethics, epidemiology, medical administration, surgery, and law, demonstrating the diversity and complexity of debates about this topic, raising considerations of patient autonomy, accountability, justice, and the quality and safety of medical services. Performance information on individual cardiac surgeons has been publicly available in parts of the US for over a decade. Survival rates for individual (...) cardiac surgeons in the UK have recently been released to the public. This trend is being driven by various factors, including concerns about accountability, patients' rights, quality and safety of medical care, and the need to avoid scandals in medical care. This trend is likely to extend to other countries, to other clinicians, and to professions beyond health care, making this text an essential addition to the literature available. (shrink)
Professionals, it is said, have no use for simple lists of virtues and vices. The complexities and constraints of professional roles create peculiar moral demands on the people who occupy them, and traits that are vices in ordinary life are praised as virtues in the context of professional roles. Should this disturb us, or is it naive to presume that things should be otherwise? Taking medical and legal practice as key examples, Justin Oakley and Dean Cocking develop a rigorous articulation (...) and defence of virtue ethics, contrasting it with other types of character-based ethical theories and showing that it offers a promising new approach to the ethics of professional roles. They provide insights into the central notions of professional detachment, professional integrity, and moral character in professional life, and demonstrate how a virtue-based approach can help us better understand what ethical professional-client relationships would be like. (shrink)