Rights and freedoms > Clauses of conscience

Thinking ethics: doing ethics

Professor in the Faculty of Medicine
Founding Director of the Faculty of Law's Centre for Medicine,
Ethics and Law at McGill University

Contemporary debates around the ethics of the new technoscience are the crucible in which some of our most important shared values as a society will be forged. We have always formed those values around the two great events in each human life, birth and death. The new science has the potential to radically change both those events. Whether it will and to what extent depends on our decisions about the ethics that should govern it.   

That we would disagree on at least some of the answers to the ethics issues posed by the new science is to be expected. But rather than bemoan our disagreements, we should welcome them, because they signal that we are engaging in "ethics talk". That talk requires a broadly based, public conversation on the ethics that should govern scientific and technological innovation and the unprecedented powers over life it has gi...

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Medicine Without Limits: Limiting Medicine Ethically

Professor in the Faculty of Medicine
Founding Director of the Faculty of Law's Centre for Medicine,
Ethics and Law at McGill University

Which principles, concepts, approaches and ideas might help us to act ethically when we face tough decisions as institutions or governments as to what health care will and will not be provided? In exploring the ethics of limiting health care, as in many areas of ethics, we often focus on dramatic individual cases.

Canada is typical in this regard. Front-page stories involving the lack of access to health care are reported in the Canadian press every day. In one story, a forty-five-year-old man with end-stage cystic fibrosis was called into hospital for a lung transplant, but no intensive care unit (ICU) bed could be found for him. The surgeon could not proceed because the patient could not be cared for post-operatively. The lungs available for transplantation to this desperately ill man were wasted. He could well die before other matching organs...

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