The Paradox of legal systems: medical ethics, and law's quest to make itself redundant

Cameron Stewart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This paper examines distinguishing features of the law and various views about its relationship to other normative systems, such as medical ethics: that there is no relationship between them, that the relationship is one of conflict, and that the relationship is one of absorption. Through discussion of end-of-life decision making, and the Northridge case in particular, I argue that the relationship between law and medical ethics lies somewhere between the second and third views. While the role of judges is essential for conflict resolution, I argue that much might be learned from the "bottom up" approach to law in Queensland, which emphasised the value of judges consulting widely with medical professionals, bioethicists, and other relevant community representatives. I conclude that progress towards resolving end-of-life conflicts will only result from clarification of the rights of doctors and family members, establishment of clear dispute resolution mechanisms, public ownership of legislation, and improved law and ethics education of health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolicing virtue
Subtitle of host publicationproceedings of the seventh annual seminar of the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney, 28 May 2004
EditorsChristopher Jordens, Ian Kerridge, Michael Selgelid
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherCentre for Values Ethics and the Law in Medicine
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)1846877162
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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