The legitimacy of medical law

Montgomery, Jonathan (2006) The legitimacy of medical law In, McLean, Sheila A.M. (eds.) First do no Harm: Law Ethics and Healthcare. Aldershot, UK, Ashgate pp. 1-16. (Applied Legal Philosophy).


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This chapter explores one of the most difficult questions now facing the practice of medical law – its legitimacy. If it is true both that legal obligations are founded on moral ones and that the moral questions raised are prone to controversy and subjectivity, then how does the law justify its coercive impact on individuals? It is one thing to act to protect individuals against abuse by others (even doctors) who fail to respect their moral choices. However, the law claims the right to go far beyond this. In the case of euthanasia, the law prohibits deliberate killing even where the patients and doctors individually concerned believe that such killing would be morally justified. It assumes the right to dictate to individuals a moral position. In a modern liberal democracy, this presents a major problem of legitimacy. What gives lawmakers, in Parliament or the courts, the right to promote or proscribe a particular course of action in the face of controversy?

Item Type: Book Section
ISBNs: 0754626148 (print)
9780754626145 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: law and morals, legitimacy of medical law

ePrint ID: 72262
Date :
Date Event
August 2006Published
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2010
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 20:56
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