Humanistic Perspectives in Medical Ethics

By Maurice B. Visscher | Go to book overview

This would follow from a love ethic, but it also follows from the rule of benevolence. The rule of benevolence says that:

. . .We owe to all men such services as we can render by a sacrifice or effort small in comparison with the service: and hence, in proportion as the needs of other men present themselves are urgent, we recognize the duty of relieving them out of superfluity. 29

The rule suggests that we ought to be kind; that, where we can, we ought to help those who are in need or distress.

The rule of benevolence has its share of difficulties--the problem of justification, the problem of explicating the meaning of the word "benevolence," the problem of how to determine the consequences of an action, and so forth. Nonetheless, much can be said for the other side of the ledger. Even though it is difficult to do, rationality demands that we consider the consequences of a proposed act. Admittedly, the notion of benevolence is difficult to explicate. But I think it is also true, that as compared to more obscure notions like "The Good," it is easier--note that I did not say "easy"--to reach agreement as to when people are suffering, and as to what would relieve their suffering. 30


References
1.
See: Charles J. McFadden, Medical Ethics ( Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, 1967); Edwin F. Healy, Medical Ethics ( Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1956); and St. Norman John-Stevas, The Right to Life, ( New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964). Daniel Callahan ( "The Sanctity of Life and Responses" in The Religious Situation 1969, edited by D. R. Cutler ; Boston: Beacon Press, 1969) does not make any direct religious appeal, but concludes that the ultimate justification for a normative principle is that it coheres with "our entire reading of the nature of things" and that it "makes sense in terms of our metaphysics" (p. 359). The interesting question is, from what metaphysic has he deduced or established his version of the SLP?
2.
Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought ( New York: Mentor Books, 1953), especially the "Epilogue."

-59-

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