Medical Investigations

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Key Terms

  • Abortion: the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy
  • Teleological :concerned with the end/purpose of an action, rather than the action itself
  • Deontological: values an action in and of itself (intrinsically) 
  • Absolutist: An approach that is always right or wrong, regardless of the situation
  • Relativist: Nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, it depends on the situation

Key Quotes

  • Don Marquis: “the loss of one’s life is one of the greatest losses a man can suffer”
  • Ellen Willis: "can it be moral under any circumstances to make a woman bear child against her will" 


  • currently legal in the UK up to 24 weeks due to the 1990 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act
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Sanctity of Life

Key Terms

  • The Sanctity of Life is the belief that human life is sacred and should be conserved
  • Deontological

Key Quotes

  • Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man by man's blood shall be shed, for in the image of God has God made man"
  • The Decalogue: "commit murder"
  • Albert Schweitzer: "reverence for life" (1915)
  • Jonathan Glover: life should not be a "necessary vehicle of consciousness" Causing Death and Saving Lives (1977)


  • Strong and Weak SoL
  • Influences Catholicism
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Quality of Life

Key Terms:

  • Instrumental value

Key Quotes:

  • "It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice." (In regards to Down's Syndrome) 
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Key Terms:

  • Personhood
  • Quickening

Different Attitudes;

  • Catholics: moment of conception
  • Some scientists: quickening occurs at 14 weeks
  • Gloria Albrecht: moral issue not a scientific one
  • Peter Singer: rationality and self-consciousness 
  • Could justify infanticide 
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Roman Catholics

Key Terms:

  • Strong Sanctity of Life

Key Quotes:

  • Pope benedict XIII: "be promoters of life from its beginning to its natural end"


  • Influenced law in Ireland, where a 21-year-old was given a three-moth suspended sentence for two years due to the use of an abortion pill.
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The Church of England

Key Quotes:

  • "The Church of England combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be- strictly limited- conditions under which it may be preferable to any available alternative"

Aquinas' Influence:

  • Natural Law
  • Double Effect
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Situation Ethics

Key Terms:

  • Agape
  • Personalism
  • Relativism

Key Quotes:

  • Joseph Fletcher: "the morality of an action depends on the situation" 1966 'Situation Ethics: The New Morality'


  • Mental health is important too
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Key Terms:

  • Hedonism

Key Quotes:

Bentham: "Nature has placed mankind under two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure, it is for them to decide what we must do"- The Principles of Morals and Legislation' 1789


Act= completely situationalist

Mill= general rules deduced should not be broken (strong rule)


  • Peter Vardy- we may not be competent judges
  • We should use a universal approach like Kantian Ethics
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Preference Utilitarianism

Key Quotes:

Peter Singer: “to pull out a sprouting acorn is not the same as cutting down a venerable oak"

The rights of the mother should be considered more highly than the rights of the foetus. 

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Human Rights

'The right to life' can be open to interpretation (mother or foetus?)

JJ Thompson:

  • 1971- A Defence of Abortion
  • Violinist analogy
  • Under no duty or obligation to save the violinist

Ellen Willis:

  • Villiage Voice 1985
  • "Can it be moral under any circumstances to make a woman bear a child against her will?"
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