The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 23, Issue 1, Spring 2023

Katelynn O’Leary
Pages 47-56

After Virtue or After Autonomy?
Examining Autonomy Claims in Abortion and Physician-Assisted Suicide

In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre argues that in modern ethical discourse, moral principles have been replaced by “fragments” that only partially represent their original meaning as derived from theological contexts. Today’s debates surrounding physician assisted suicide (PAS) and abortion highlight that the “fragment” of autonomy has been championed over principles such as justice, beneficence, and nonmaleficence with little justification. This acceptance of patient autonomy as the ultimate good distracts from societal ills that drive contentious medical decisions, further muddles society’s image of the human person, and subliminally redefines the medical profession. Medical professionals who oppose these practices must commit themselves to forming physician-patient covenants of trust, rather than accepting consumeristic models of patient care that foster an inappropriate focus on self-determination.