Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (6):404-410 (2019)

Authors
Nir Ben-Moshe
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Abstract
Answers to the questions of what justifies conscientious objection in medicine in general and which specific objections should be respected have proven to be elusive. In this paper, I develop a new framework for conscientious objection in medicine that is based on the idea that conscience can express true moral claims. I draw on one of the historical roots, found in Adam Smith’s impartial spectator account, of the idea that an agent’s conscience can determine the correct moral norms, even if the agent’s society has endorsed different norms. In particular, I argue that when a medical professional is reasoning from the standpoint of an impartial spectator, his or her claims of conscience are true, or at least approximate moral truth to the greatest degree possible for creatures like us, and should thus be respected. In addition to providing a justification for conscientious objection in medicine by appealing to the potential truth of the objection, the account advances the debate regarding the integrity and toleration justifications for conscientious objection, since the standard of the impartial spectator specifies the boundaries of legitimate appeals to moral integrity and toleration. The impartial spectator also provides a standpoint of shared deliberation and public reasons, from which a conscientious objector can make their case in terms that other people who adopt this standpoint can and should accept, thus offering a standard fitting to liberal democracies.
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DOI 10.1136/medethics-2018-105332
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References found in this work BETA

The Sources of Normativity.Christine Korsgaard - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (196):384-394.
Ethics, Inventing Right and Wrong.[author unknown] - 1977 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 43 (3):581-582.
Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer.Roderick Firth - 1951 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 12 (3):317-345.

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Citations of this work BETA

Conscientious Objection: Unmasking the Impartial Spectator.Toni C. Saad - 2019 - Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (10):677-678.
Professional Duties of Conscientious Objectors.Francesca Minerva - 2019 - Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (10):675-676.

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The Imperative of Conscientious Objection in Medical Practice.Paschal M. Corby - 2018 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 18 (4):611-618.
When Should Conscientious Objection Be Accepted.Morten Magelssen - 2012 - Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (1):18-21.

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