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Perm J. 2016 Fall;20(4):122-124. doi: 10.7812/TPP/16-023. Epub 2016 Aug 17.

An Ethics of Permission: A Response to the California End of Life Option Act.

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Director of Medical Bioethics at the South Bay Medical Center in Harbor City, CA, and a Claremont School of Theology Library Scholar in CA.


An ethics of permission can be helpful in framing a response to the ethical differences surrounding the California End of Life Option Act. Law does not define morality, and reaching a moral understanding demands thorough reflection. An ethics of permission examines the ethical demands of a permissive law for both clinician and patient. Serving the good of the patient, respecting professional conscience, and following the law are three ethical elements. Although developing an ethics of permission includes these three elements, these elements do not exhaust all the moral implications involved. An ethics of permission also includes the importance of exercising professional tolerance in the honoring of clinicians who choose to participate or refuse to participate. In addition, an ethics of permission also provides insight in implementing just and fair behavior among medical professionals.

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