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Current & Recent Research at Penn Law

Author: Sawicki, Nadia N.
Citation: Without Consent: Moral Imperatives, Special Abilities, and the Duty to Treat, Am. J. Bioethics
Date Published: Forthcoming
Date Posted: 06/17/2008
Subjects: Law and Health Sciences
Law and the Global Community
Keywords: Moral and Political Philosophy
Professional Ethics
Science and Technology
Health Law and Policy
This open peer commentary is a response to Heidi Malm et al, Ethics, Pandemics, and the Duty to Treat, forthcoming in the American Journal of Bioethics.

In searching for a consent-based solution to what is, at heart, a question of moral imperative, it comes as no surprise that Malm et al find no purchase in many of the common defenses of the duty to treat. If health care workers do indeed have a duty to treat patients during a public health emergency, even at increased risk to themselves, the sort of duty we envision is one that is owed a priori and cannot be dismissed merely by, in Malm’s words, “signaling dissent.” This Commentary demonstrates that the “special abilities” defense, rejected by Malm et al as overinclusive, is consistent with both deontological and virtue-based duties to use innate or acquired abilities in support of the common good during a state of emergency.