Dependent Rational Providers
Brothers, Kyle B
The Journal of medicine and philosophy 2011 Apr; 36(2): 133-47
Provider claims to conscientious objection have generated a great deal of heated debate in recent years. However, the conflicts that arise when providers make claims to the "conscience" are only a subset of the more fundamental challenges that arise in health care practice when patients and providers come into conflict. In this piece, the author provides an account of patient-provider conflict from within the moral tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. He argues that the practice of health care providers should be understood as a form of practical reasoning and that this practical reasoning must necessarily incorporate both "moral" and "professional" commitments. In order to understand how the practical reasoning of provider should account for the needs and commitments of the patient and vice versa, he explores the account of dependence provided by Alasdair MacIntyre in his book Dependent Rational Animals. MacIntyre argues that St. Thomas' account of practical reasoning should be extended and adapted to account for the embodied vulnerability of all humans. In light of this insight, providers must view patients not only as the subjects of their moral reflection but also as fellow humans upon whom the provider depends for feedback on the effectiveness and relevance of her practical reasoning. The author argues that this account precludes responsive providers from adopting either moral or professional conclusions on the appropriateness of interventions outside the individual circumstances that arise in particular situations. The adoption of this orientation toward patients will neither eradicate provider-patient conflict nor compel providers to perform interventions to which they object. But this account does require that providers attend meaningfully to the suffering of patients and seek feedback on whether their intervention has effectively addressed that suffering.
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