e best medial care possible, and it is often not enough to properly indicate to a medical practitioner exactly what course of action or behavior would be most ethical in many complex, modern situations. According to Steinberg, “Medical ethics in the modern sense refers to the application of general and fundamental ethical principles to clinical practice situations, including medical research,” (Steinberg 1998: 3).
This suggests that, in the modern sense, medical ethics are increasingly being approached from a far more broad perspective than in the recent past; many scholars and medical doctors are not regarding the Oath as the sole source of ethical guidance for the ever-diversifying profession. Instead, a somewhat more comprehensive, or holistic, approach toward analyzing medical ethics has evolved out of the complex problems and questions facing modern society—questions surrounding new applications of science, engineering, social theory and social or political debates. These questions deal with issues such as biomedical engineering, cloning, stem cell research, physician assisted suicide, abortion rights, as well as the role of the hospital itself; and although some such issues may seem very specific, the philosophical implications for how they might be handled or addressed are far-reaching, and indicate what the fundamental relationship between medical practitioner and patient might be—or should be.
This paper will briefly look into some of these major ethical debates within the realm of medical practice, and attempt to give them some grounding in the overall tapestry of moral philosophy. Fundamentally, ethical debates in medicine can be traced back to their interpretation of what is meant by “public health.” Obviously, this reduces to who is defined as a member of the public, as well as what sort of health is something that modern medicine should actually be concerned with. Are unborn infants regarded as members of the public; if they are, what