Indexed on: 22 Aug '06Published on: 22 Aug '06Published in: The Journal of medicine and philosophy
Belgium's policy of not permitting Catholic hospitals to refuse euthanasia services rests on ethical presuppositions concerning the secular justification of political power which reveal the paradoxical character of European liberalism: In endorsing freedom as a value (rather than as a side constraint), liberalism prioritizes first-order intentions, thus discouraging lasting moral commitments and the authority of moral communities in supporting such commitments. The state itself is thus transformed into a moral community of its own. Alternative policies (such as an explicit moral diversification of public healthcare or the greater tolerance for Christian institutions in the Netherlands) are shown to be incompatible with Europe's liberal concern with securing social and material freedom resources, as well as the concern with equality of opportunity, as embodied in the European Union's anti-discrimination labor law. The essay's argument for the preferability of a libertarian solution closes with the challenge that only if the provision of public healthcare can be shown to be rationally indispensable for a morally justified polity, could the exposed incoherence of modern European liberalism be generously discounted.