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Recently a well-known magazine published an article entitled ‘Moral Specialist.’ This article recounts the activities of Russell McIntyre, described by the authors as a theologian and philosopher who specializes in bioethics. McIntyre is routinely consulted by physicians for help in solving ethical problems. He is asked for moral advice on such matters as abortion, euthanasia, and sterilization for teenagers. McIntyre even wears an electronic ‘beeper’ so that when untimely moral quandaries arise he can easily be reached. McIntyre says that ultimately such moral decisions should be made by the people involved — the physician, the patient, and the family. However, he claims that there are still many gray areas in bioethics ‘where it is best to call in an expert for consultation.’
Recently it has been argued that there are genuine moral dilemmas and that any theory which does not account for this fact is an unrealistic one. This represents a challenge to an assumption that most moral theorists have held: an adequate ethical theory must not allow for genuine moral quandaries. John Stuart Mill, for example, in the last paragraph of the second chapter of Utilitarianism, seems to be committed to such an assumption. Many others have also assented to this view. The consensus among those who hold this view seems to be that if a theory allows for moral dilemmas then there is some sense in which it is incoherent or inconsistent. Yet, oddly enough, the sense in which such a view would be incoherent is rarely, if ever, spelled out. Put another way, there seem to be no arguments for the belief that genuine moral dilemmas must be ruled out.
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