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Suffering and Bioethics$
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Ronald M. Green and Nathan J. Palpant

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199926176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.001.0001

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Suffering and Ethics in an Age of Empowerment

Suffering and Ethics in an Age of Empowerment

(p.431) 21 Suffering and Ethics in an Age of Empowerment
Suffering and Bioethics

Nathan J. Palpant

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by supporting the shared view that suffering is intrinsically evil and its alleviation ought to be a high moral priority. However, since the alleviation of suffering is inherently only a prima facie duty, the core reflection centers on trying to understand the limits to our obligation to alleviate suffering. Our ethical thinking about suffering is informed by two related matters. First, we cannot know how to alleviate suffering unless we know the good we seek in its remediation. Second, it is the relationship between the goods we prioritize and the powers we use that markedly influences our ethical priorities about how to approach human suffering. Using psychotropic drugs as an example, the chapter addresses our proclivity to evaluate suffering in light of powers we are capable of, which puts at risk our sensitivity to the meaning of suffering in the human experience. In closing, the chapter outlines two ways that our priorities are disoriented to suffering in the human experience.

Keywords:   suffering, psychotropic drugs, obligation, prima facie duty, ethical priorities

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