A Common Body of Care: The Ethics and Politics of Teamwork in the Operating Theater Are Inseparable
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2006 June; 31(3): 305-322
In the operating theater, the micro-politics of practice, such as interpersonal communications, are central to patient safety and are intimately tied with values as well as knowledge and skills. Team communication is a shared and distributed work activity. In an era of "professionalism," that must now encompass "interprofessionalism," a virtue ethics framework is often invoked to inform practice choices, with reference to phronesis or practical wisdom. However, such a framework is typically cast in individualistic terms as a character trait, rather than in terms of a distributed quality that may be constituted through intentionally collaborative practice, or is an emerging property of a complex, adaptive system. A virtue ethics approach is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a collaborative bioethics within the operating theater. There is also an ecological imperative-the patient's entry into the household (oikos) of the operating theater invokes the need for "hospitality" as a form of ethical practice.
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