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Moral Facts and Objective Law – Challenges for the Court in Bioethical Issues

The Honourable Justice Choo Han Teck

(2010) 22 SAcLJ 833

We may think that moral wrongs like “killing” ought to be universally condemned, but we rarely get any universal consensus on morality and law. Not only is killing accepted by some religious laws, it is also accepted in the courts of some secular states. The reason why debates continue as to what constitutes a moral wrong is the same as for the debates as to what constitutes a legal wrong – the inability thus far of finding a meta-norm – the Rule that rules them all – that will determine how such wrongs are identified. This article explores some of the epistemological problems and examines the impact of a materialist science on the idealist ethical sphere. Finally, this article also examines the difficulty of ascertaining facts objectively. It emphasises the difficulties facing a court that has to adjudicate on a bioethical issue because of the fundamental problems – finding the facts objectively and discovering the rule that governs them.