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L van Zyl. Ashgate, 2000, £40.00 (hb), pp 230. ISBN 0-7546-1231-7
Can virtue ethics tell us what to do? And has principlism had its day? These are two of the questions that van Zyl’s text seeks to answer in the affirmative. Van Zyl wishes to encourage an approach to medical practice that draws upon the requirements of virtue ethics, in preference to principlist (primarily deontological and consequentialist) ethics. Her account then relates these twin themes to one concrete realm of medical practice, decisions taken at the end of life.
Van Zyl believes that the process of modernisation has not only affected medicine, in its evolution from an “art” into a “science”, but also medical or bio-ethics, in its move to a principlist ethic, which demands the application of universal, rational, objective rules to “cases”. Such shifts account for some dissatisfaction with the medical focus, since it is just that, while …
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