Virtue and the Practice of Modern Medicine
Putnam, Daniel A.
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 1988 Nov; 13(4): 433-443.
Robert Veatch has claimed that virtue theory is not only irrelevant but potentially dangerous in medical ethics. I argue that virtue is a far more prominent factor in contemporary medical practice than Veatch admits. Even if 'stranger medicine' is taken as the norm, proper conduct on the part of physicians depends on certain character traits in order to be maintained consistently over a long period of time and in situations which run counter to the physician's own interests. Right conduct, which Veatch argues is the central moral issue in the physician-patient relationship, is intertwined with certain virtues. Moreover, the virtue of integrity and the concept of a unified life-narrative are especially useful in analyzing an important factor missing in modern medicine. And since medicine relies necessarily on some concept of human flourishing I argue that virtue theory can play a central role in helping to determine the goals of medical practice.
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