Heroes, Martyrs, and Other Choices
Fletcher, John C.
Journal of Clinical Ethics. 1996 Winter; 7(4): 301-305.
Benjamin Freedman's article on the paucity of risktaking of "heroic" proportions by bioethicists is intriguing and puzzling. First, we will comment on his options for risktaking in clinical bioethics, and then we will contribute to his concluding request for examples and cases. Freedman is concerned with the lack of reported heroism in bioethics. We understand this concern in the context of risktaking for the sake of principle and integrity. We want to discuss risktaking of two types: ordinary and "high stakes." Freedman frames the options for risktaking as an "either-or": either heroism (for example, to risk one's job), martyrdom (for example, to lose one's job), or being self-protective and passive about violations of institutional or professional integrity. If we understand him correctly, we respectfully disagree with this narrow construction. There are other options and ways of understanding everyday and ordinary risktaking in clinical bioethics that can prevent escalation to summitry. There can also be mercifully rare occasions for every clinical bioethicist where the stakes are so high that the choice must involve the job itself.
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