Mistakes and missed opportunities regarding cosmetic surgery and conscientious objection

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Abstract

In her paper ‘Cosmetic surgery and conscientious objection’, Minerva rightly identifies cosmetic surgery as an interesting test case for the question of conscientious objection in medicine. Her treatment of this important subject, however, seems problematic. It is argued that Minerva's suggestion that a doctor has a prima facie duty to satisfy patient preferences even against his better clinical judgment, which we call Patient Preference Absolutism, must be regarded with scepticism. This is because (1) it overlooks an important distinction regarding autonomy's meaning and place in clinical practice, and (2) it makes obsolete the important concepts of expert clinical judgment and beneficence. Finally, we discuss two ideas which emerge from consideration of cosmetic surgery in relation to conscientious objection. These are the possible analogy between clinical judgment and conscientious objection, and the possible role the goals of medicine can play in defining the scope of conscientious objection.

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