There is a need to bring ethics and medical practice closer together, despite the risk and problems this may involve. Deontological ethics may promote sanctity of life considerations against the quality of life considerations favoured by consequentialists or utilitarians; while talk of respect for life and the value of life may point to more qualified ethical positions. This paper argues for a respect-for-life position, dismissing a utilitarian cost-benefit outlook as too simplistic; but an unqualified fixed principles approach is also ruled out, both because of its unacceptable consequences in individual cases and also because of its reliance on the slippery slope argument which, it is argued, is logically and psychologically deficient. The case of genetic engineering provides an example in which the notion of respect may operate, but in which broad general principles also apply. A cautious conservatism towards accepted principles is recommended in the development of medical technologies.
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