PHIL 265 Biomedical ethics

Review questions for exam 2



  1. Why respect patient autonomy (i.e. treating patients only with informed voluntary consent)?
  2. On what grounds does Ackerman think care providers can sometimes be justified in interfering with a patient’s autonomy.
  3. Explain passive and active euthanasia. Also how do voluntary, non-voluntary euthanasia differ? How would involuntary euthanasia differ from typical non-voluntary cases of euthanasia?
  4. What is suicide according to Kant?
  5. Suicide is always wrong according to Kant.  Why?
  6. What difference does Kant recognize between suicide and sacrificing one’s life for a cause?
  7. On what grounds does Brandt reject theological arguments against suicide based on the commandments of God?
  8. How does Brandt reply to Kant’s argument against suicide based on the categorical imperative?
  9. Under what conditions, according to Brandt, is suicide rational?
  10. Medical codes of ethics like the AMA’s frequently condone letting patients die (passive euthanasia) but object to killing patients (active euthanasia).  Why does Rachels reject the moral relevance of this distinction?  
  11. Why does Rachels think we sometimes have a moral reason to prefer active euthanasia?
  12. What are Rachel’s Smith and Jones cases intended to show?



  1. What ambiguity does Warren find in speaking of a being as human?
  2. What does it mean to be a person in the moral sense?
  3. What sorts of cases suggest that being a person in the moral sense does not necessarily overlap perfectly with being a human being in the biological sense?
  4. What, on Warren’s view, is it to be a person in the moral sense?
  5. Is the fetus a person on Warren’s cognitive conception? Why or why not?
  6. Why does Warren think that the potential to become a person fails to ground a right to life that would make abortion impermissible?
  7.  How does Warrant address the objection that her congitive conception of personhood would deprive infants of a significant right to life and thereby make infanticide morally permissible?
  8. Thompson assumes that fetuses are persons and argues that abortion is often morally permissible just the same. Explain the role of the case of the famous violinist in her argument for the permissibility of many cases of abortion. How is this case used in analyzing the content of the right to life?
  9. What problem to abortion opponents face in making an exception for cases of rape?
  10. How does Thomson argue that the right to life is not a right to be provided with what ever you need to survive?
  11. What problem does the view that the right to life is a right not to be killed unjustly raise for this argument:
    1.     The fetus is a person.
    2.     All persons have the right to life.
    3.     Abortion is the killing of a person.
    4.     Therefore abortion is wrong.
  12. What is Thompson’s people seeds case supposed to show?
  13. What does Thompson mean by “decent”?
  14. According to Little, even if a fetus is not a person, it may still be deserving of moral respect. Explain.
  15. How, according to Little, can the prospect of being a mother count as a reason for getting an abortion.
  16. How, according to Little, can the prospect of being a mother count as a reason against getting an abortion.
  17. Explain Marquis’ account of the wrongness of killing.
  18. How does Marquis’ account of the wrongness of killing support the view that abortion is wrong whether or not the fetus is a person?
  19. What virtues does Marquis claim for his account of the wrongness of killing?