Correspondence: John D. Arras, Porterfield Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Professor of Philosophy, P.O. Box #400780, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4780, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I begin this commentary with an expanded typology of theories that endorse an internal morality of medicine. I then subject these theories to a philosophical critique. I argue that the more robust claims for an internal morality fail to establish a stand-alone method for bioethics because they ignore crucial non-medical values, violate norms of justice and fail to establish the normativity of medical values. I then argue that weaker versions of internalism avoid such problems, but at the cost of failing to provide a clear sense in which their moral norms are internal or can ground a comprehensive approach to moral problems. Finally, I explore various functions that an internal morality might serve, concluding with the observation that, while there may be a core of good sense to the notion of an internal morality of medicine, our expectations for it must be drastically lowered.