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PHIL 313 Midterm: Doctor-patient relationship and medical research study guide

Course Code
PHIL 313
Walter Glannon
Study Guide

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Philosophy 313 Midterm 1 Reading Study Guide
Kant On Supposed Right to Lie for Altruistic Motives
It is never permissible to tell a lie
o Because it cannot be universalized
For example, it is okay for a person to lie, only if it is okay for everyone to
If it was acceptable for everyone to tell lies, then there would be no
general presumption that everyone was telling the truth
To determine whether it is okay for a doctor to tell a lie to a patient when
she thinks it is in their best interest, you would hae to appl this ule
If this was universal, patients would not believe what doctors told
o Because it is not consistent with respect for autonomy
Doctors that lie or withhold info deprive the patient from making an
informed choice
Kats ie ephasizes the ipotae of atioalit ad osiste
Moral absolutes cannot be violated (preventing any loopholes, selfishness, or biases)
People have unconditional worth and should be given respect
If every human has intrinsic worth, then every human should have equal rights (a moral
framework for rights)
The ights ad duties appl to all ultues/soieties ad i all otet dot eed to
worry about relativism)
You have autonomy (the right to make your own decision) and therefore, can pursue
happiness as long as you are not lying or harming another person
Kats ie doest eigh the oseuees of akig ethial deisios soeties e
think we are doing the best thing, but the outcome turns out bad)
Constants argument:
o To tell the truth is a duty, but it is only a duty with respect to one who has a right
to the truth (no one has a right to a truth that harms others)
o ie. you can lie to a Nazi that is knocking on your door (that your Jewish friend is
not hiding in your home)
o A duty of one person corresponds to the right of another person
Kants argument:
o Beig tuthful is ee huas foal dut, ee if the tuth ill ok to his o
aothe pesos disadatage
o If you lie for someone, you are not doing any wrong to the Jewish friend but you
do wrong in general
Now all general statements lose their binding force (no trust or
confidence that anything is true)
o A lie always harms another
If not a person, it will harm humanity
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o By telling the truth, one is not wronging himself or others
If the other person suffers as a consequence, the harm is caused by
o Even lying for a good reason may have unintended consequences
ie. the Nazi will go find someone else to murder (this will leave you
o If you tell the truth, public justice cannot punish you
o Also, neighbours may catch the murderer and prevent him from murdering
o If you tell the truth, there is still a chance that the victim may escape
But if you lie, the victim may escape but later be found by the murderer,
resulting in his death anyway
o Truthfulness is a contract and if there were any exceptions, the contract would
be rendered null and void
o We should raise questions about the moral character of a person who wants to
be excepted from moral rules that bind everyone else
If someone is not insulted when asked if they are telling the truth or not,
it raises suspicion that they are a liar
Also, if someone needs to think about how they are going to respond (to
formulate various exceptions to telling the truth), they are a liar because
they are allowing themselves to be an exception to a rule that applies to
everyone else
o We have a greater duty to humanity in general to tell the truth
Collins On Should Doctors Tell the Truth
Lying involves an intent to deceive
o If you say something that is false, you are not lying unless it was told
o If you withhold info with the intention to deceive, you are lying
Collins says that doctors must frequently withhold the truth from patients and that it is
a fine art
Believes there are several cases where lying is the correct thing to do
o ie. patient has a serious progressive spinal cord disease but was told he had a
unique form of rheumatism that required special treatment
If the truth was told, the patient would have become severely depressed
o ie. man had business on the verge of success, became sick, and had surgery. Was
not told that the surgery was unsuccessful and that he would die soon. Man
went on to live his life and business became highly successful before he died
shortly after.
If the truth was told, the man would have had so much despair that the
business would have failed and would not provide compensation for his
Believes that there are also cases where lying is tragic
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o ie. lawyer had kidney disease, doctor told him he could recover if he changed his
lifestyle, lawyer demanded the truth, doctor told him and the lawyer committed
suicide two months later
Collins suggests that doctors should lie or deliberately withhold the truth in some
circumstances (the ones in which the doto eliees it ould e i the patiets est
interest not to know the truth)
Collins believes that the principle of beneficence should be given greater weight (as
opposed to autonomy)
Higgs On Telling Patients the Truth
Argues that doctors and health care workers do not have a special exemption from
telling the truth
o The hae o ate lahe to lie oplete feedo to at as oe ishes o
thinks is best)
o Their lies, like everybody else, require strong justification
The argument of uncertainty:
o Higgs says uncertainty is not a good enough reason to lie because we must be
honest and admit that we do not know the truth
The argument of beneficence:
o Doctors should do what provides the most benefit (the patiets best interest)
and sometimes that means not knowing the truth
o Higgs says that patients want to be told the truth and respect for autonomy
euies dotos to espet thei patiets ishes ost patiets ejet edial
The argument of non-maleficence:
o Doctors ought not to harm their patients and sometimes the truth will cause
o Higgs does not have an argument for this reason to lie (because the truth will
sometimes cause harm) but he says the harm is likely coming from a lack of
compassionate communication, sensitivity, and lack of support and aftercare
The argument of autonomy:
o Dotos ust espet a patiets alues ad eliefs ad thei apait to ake
choices based on their values and beliefs, and that they cannot exercise this
capacity until told the truth
o Higgs believes that doctors ought to tell the truth because respect to autonomy
requires them to
Higgs claims that the reasons typically given for doctors to lie to their patients are not
usuall alid, ut he ot go as fa to agee ith Kat i saig that it is always wrong
to lie
Higgs says that it is permissible to lie in cases where there are no acceptable alternatives
o ie. when life is diminishing and the truth would bring certain disaster
The conflict is between the principles of autonomy and beneficence
o Higgs believes that the principle of autonomy generally has greater weight
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