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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Essays In Pastoral Medicine

This is a fascinating volume, mixing medical practice with moral philosophy. It reflects the character of the era, where the two could be separated along religious (Christian) lines in early twentieth century America.

In some ways, things have not changed so much as might seem to be the case.

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Essays In Pastoral Medicine
by Austin ÓMalley and James J. Walsh (1906)


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But, you say, this is a vicious circle. You justify the permitted death of the foetus in Case I. because it is a materially unjust aggressor, and it is a materially unjust aggressor because it is in an unnatural position where it has no right to be; but in the present case the mother put it in the unnatural position, and it therefore has a right to be where it is. 

No: the consequence does not follow. The fact that the mother put the foetus in its unnatural position does not give the foetus a right to be in that position, although it constitutes a ground for her punishment by proper authority. 

You object again, if this woman has a right to permit the death of the foetus to save her own life, how may she be punished for that death? She will not be punished for the actual coeliotomy which indirectly caused the death of the foetus, but she will be punished for the sin of putting that child in a position in which it had to be killed. This seems to be a distinction without a difference. As far as the mother is concerned, transeat; but it is a real distinction as far as the surgeon is concerned.

If the woman's condition is a result of accidental infection before or after marriage, the case goes into the class of those discussed above, and operation is justifiable.

If her infection comes after her marriage adulterously, her {39} sin is the greater, but the operation is justifiable for the reasons which were given in the case of culpable infection before marriage.

If she had been infected by her husband, the operation is justifiable--the father is accountable for the foetus's death.

Fortunately the entire case is so nearly hypothetical that it is little more than mere words.

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Essays In Pastoral Medicine by Austin ÓMalley and James J. Walsh

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