Maurice B. Visscher
Anyone dealing with the problems of deciding what is good is necessarily confronted with age-old questions: good for what, good for whom, and good for when? One also has to deal with competing "goods" when there is no simple dichotomy available for choice.
Physicians living and working today face many ethical questions which were not recognized a generation ago or were not as important as they are now. The mores of the past provide no valid guide to the solution of moral questions in changed contexts. Only a fresh approach from basic principles in the light of current realities can yield answers that promise useful conclusions. By following custom one can avoid criticism for one's behavior, but this has no relevance to ethics. It was once customary to burn some types of psychotics at the stake as witches; religious dissenters were treated in the same way. Enlightenment and the discrediting of once widely held superstitions have now made such practices repugnant to society. One may legitimately wonder whether the currently accepted mores for dealing with persons addicted to the use of psychotropic drugs are not as outmoded as the burning of witches. Our treatment of such persons as felons is not quite as inhumane as