Medical Ethics in the Ancient World

By Paul Carrick | Go to book overview
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The future belongs to those who shall have done most for suffering humanity.


WE HAVE DISCOVERED not one but many diverse Greek and Roman philosophical and medical perspectives on abortion and euthanasia. Let us glance retrospectively at some of the key findings and reflect briefly on their possible implications for a fuller understanding of the origins and character of Western medical ethics. My remarks will encompass four broad areas: (1) the multiplicity of ancient medical ethical perspectives; (2) the relationship of ancient physicians to ancient philosophers; (3) the relationship of these physicians to their patients; and (4) the relationship of physicians to the state.


From the evidence that we have examined, manifold and diverse Greco-Roman ethical perspectives on the rightness or wrongness of abortion, euthanasia, and related topics have emerged. What does it mean?

One thing that it clearly means is that there is no such thing as the Greek or Roman view on abortion, or the Greek or Roman view on euthanasia, or on when humanhood begins and ends, or on what happens to a person when he dies, and so on. Some contemporary scholars, like Langer and Mair, and several more of their predecessors, like Lecky and Westermarck, have on the whole tended to lump together Greco-Roman perspectives on such vital bioethical and metaphysical questions. Differences in degree of approval or condemnation were admitted, but over


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Medical Ethics in the Ancient World


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