Constraints and heroes.

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2 Scopus citations


A story, perhaps apocryphal, is told about the United States surgical team which pioneered the first artificial heart procedure. It is said that the team received a number of telephone calls from people around the country who, worried about the ailing heart recipient, offered to donate to him their own hearts. When the surgical team, justifiably curious, sent psychiatrists to examine these donors, they found to their surprise that many of the donors were rational, competent, sincere, and fully aware that as a consequence of donating their hearts they would die....My concerns here will be threefold. First, I want to add some substance to the widely-held intuition that there is something morally objectionable about a physician participating in procedures which put even a willing subject at risk. In so doing, I want to explore the larger question of why such a puzzle arises -- why physicians, and many others, find it morally objectionable to help someone do something which all agree to be heroic. Finally, I will start by examining some ways of framing the issue, widely employed in medical ethics, which I believe are simply wrong. This sort of puzzle is much more interesting than proponents of these standard arguments would have us believe, and it illustrates some larger points about morality which are often overlooked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992


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