The Fivefold Root of an Ethics of Surgery
Bioethics 2002 June; 16(3): 183-201
Surgical ethics have generally been framed as general medical ethics applied to surgical contexts. This model is helpful, but may miss some of the special features of the surgical process and relationship. It is suggested in this paper that there are five categories of experience and relationship which are especially important in surgery-- rescue, proximity, ordeal, aftermath, and presence. The sense of rescue, the feeling of relational proximity, the ordeal and aftermath of surgery are things which the patient experiences. Understanding these experiences allow surgeons to understand what may be asked of them in an ethical sense. Recognition of the reality and validity of each category in the surgical process highlights the importance of presence, the acts by which the surgeon demonstrates that he is present to the patient throughout the surgical process and its aftermath. While the teaching of communication skills may never compensate for insensitivity, the ideal of presence as virtue and duty can be taught by precept and example.
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