Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 October 1999
Kant postulates in The Metaphysics of Morals that we share a moral duty to sympathize actively in the suffering of another and to cultivate the virtue of compassion. More recently, Howard Brody has claimed that a good physician must maintain in her imagination “that separate vantage point from which the experience of the sufferer can be reinterpreted and reconnected to the broader context of culture and society.” What does it mean to take suffering seriously in the context of abortion? It means that a physician must listen to three rival versions of suffering: that of a woman who has inquired about an abortion, that of her fetus, and that of the community in which the woman lives. The professional duty that Brody ascribes specifically to physicians compounds the moral duty we all share to lessen suffering. Physicians differ importantly from nonphysicians, for suffering is their business.