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A patient's a person, no matter how small: maternal-fetal medicine's call for a postliberal 'cardinal virtues bioethics'

Sobol, Michael W. (2024) A patient's a person, no matter how small: maternal-fetal medicine's call for a postliberal 'cardinal virtues bioethics'. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The remarkable promise of maternal-fetal medicine, offering prenatal diagnosis, fetal surgery, and in utero therapeutic strategies, is hindered by the inability of modern bioethical approaches to recognize the personhood and patienthood of the unborn child. This leads to not only semantic contradictions but also philosophical conflict with the foundational human good of life. This thesis provides grounds for a rejection of Beauchamp and Childress’ principlism and the autonomy-dominated bioethical framework which, if not expressly authorized by Principles of Biomedical Ethics, has naturally descended from it. At the root of this model’s shortcomings is not that the wrong principles were specified, that too many principles were specified, or that too few principles were specified. Instead, the prevailing liberal headwinds of political philosophy are the true culprits, beating back the ship of bioethics sailing along the promising tide of effective fetal screenings, surgeries, and therapies that elevate the status of the in utero child. Live-and-let-live liberal bioethics is, regrettably, not letting the weakest and most vulnerable humans live.
Pro-life advocates who wish to defend the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death, need a new bioethics. Clinicians who seek the good of a mother and her unborn child while pioneering prenatal and neonatal therapeutic approaches, which revolutionize the prospects of infants with congenital defects, need a new bioethics. Patients across the lifespan and the physiological states need confidence that they are being treated in pursuit of life and health; they, too, need a new bioethics.
Cardinal virtues bioethics is that new bioethics. Developed from the natural law theory of Aquinas, Finnis, Eberl, and others, it provides a new set of mid-level principles—justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance. In accord with recent bioethical texts—from Gomez-Lobo, Keown, Curlin, and Tollefsen—it articulates the goods which ought to be particularly pursued in the practice of healthcare and its relational associations. In parallel with Deneen’s postliberal political theory, it goes beyond criticisms of liberalism to image a new polis and a new virtue ethics model normatively centered on the common good.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sobol, Michael W.mws70@pitt.edumws70
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDeem,
Committee MemberElkin,
Committee MemberThomas, Teresa
Committee MemberTollefsen,
Date: 23 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 10 April 2024
Approval Date: 23 April 2024
Submission Date: 18 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 151
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Politics and Philosophy
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: virtue ethics, postliberalism, natural law theory, maternal-fetal medicine
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2024 15:20
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2024 15:20


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