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Observations Ethics Man

Doing the right thing

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5288 (Published 20 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5288

Rapid Response:

Re: Doing the right thing

Altruism, philantrophy, dogoodism, and "do you mind if I hold your hand dear while you die" are great stuff and the more the merrier, but could you say they are generic or yellow pack or morality lite? Are they window dressing and a token jesture toward "doing the right thing" and a salve to a middle class laisez faire lack of courage? Are they really where the action is, or are there other unsung heroes doing the heavy moral lifting un-noticed if not pariahed?

Ethics is all right as long as you don't take it too seriously and as long as you are "reasonable" - so the body language of many proponents of politically correct ethics goes. The problem with that attitude is that it reneges on real ethics. Real ethics means adherence to the real truth and doing the really right thing. Being a practicing Roman Catholic, and not doing contraception abortion euthanasia or any of the other verboten things, and conscientiously objecting, which means not doing, and not referring to someone who will do, what is objectionable - is unpopular in the present ethical and moral climate. It does take courage to do this.

The really honest conscientious objectors - who are the pains in the arse of teflon ethicists - are coherent and do what they actually believe to be right. Daniel Sokol should be lauded for raising such an interesting and important topic, and maybe this courageous prize he speaks about will serve to highlight the true ethical standards we should aspire to.

Competing interests: Yes I have written a series of hard hitting books called Mind and Belief the last of which is "Mind and Belief V" which do not leave much of a fence to sit on!

22 October 2015
Eugene G BREEN
Physician/psychiatrist
62/63 Eccles St Dublin