Rawls and the Refusal of Medical Treatment to Children
D. Robert MacDougall
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Vol. 35, Issue 2, pp. 130-153, 2010
That Jehovah's Witnesses cannot refuse life-saving blood transfusions on behalf of their children has acquired the status of virtual “consensus” among bioethicists. However strong the consensus may be on this matter, this article explores whether this view can be plausibly defended on liberal principles by examining it in light of one particularly well worked-out liberal political theory, that of Rawls. It concludes that because of the extremely high priority Rawls attributes to “freedom of conscience,” and the implication from the original position that parents must act paternalistically toward their children as their protectors, Jehovah's Witnesses cannot legitimately be barred from making decisions on behalf of their children, even when the consequences of such decisions are serious and irremediable.
Keywords: children, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, Jehovah's witness, paternalism, Rawls
Date posted: March 22, 2010