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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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The Evil of Suffering

The Evil of Suffering

22 The Evil of Suffering
Suffering and Bioethics

Ronald M. Green

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that there is a prima facie moral obligation to prevent and relieve suffering. Because pain and suffering are states that all rational people ordinarily want to avoid, this obligation does not derive from a specific view of life’s goods and evils. There are limits to the relief of suffering, but they are based on this same duty. Arguments against active euthanasia that point to euthanasia’s adverse long-term impacts on patients and society are examples. On the basis of this understanding, this chapter critiques religious views that appear to valorize suffering. It concludes with an examination of arguments that would limit medical interventions in the name of preventing the medicalization of suffering. Drawing on the concept of “malady” and its conceptually tight relation to suffering, the chapter argues that there are often good reasons for limiting the scope of medical professionalism to the prevention and treatment of diseases (maladies). The prevention and relief of suffering, however, sometimes counsel allowing physicians to assist patients seeking treatments for other, nondisease conditions.

Keywords:   obligation, suffering, euthanasia, medical interventions, medicalization, malady, medical professionalism

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