Absent Virtues: The Poacher Becomes Gamekeeper
Journal of Medical Ethics 2003 December; 29(6): 337-342
Since its inception, bioethics' principled stance has been to argue against paternalism and elitism, and for an inclusive ethical perspective. But at least in North America, the growth of bioethics as a special area of applied ethics has created conflicts within the field itself. Those who, a generation earlier, argued against paternalism and for both professional and public accountability in medical decision making are now part of the decision making process. Too often, it is argued in this paper, their allegiance is to the employer, or to a view of medicine that is institutionally based. As a result, it is suggested by this review, medical ethicists have adopted the perspective that, in the early 1970s, they most criticised. The answer, it is argued here, is to revisit a lexicographical ordering of responsibility in bioethics, one that recognises professionals as individuals with responsibilities, as citizens with a public posture, and finally, as professionals involved in the process of medical decision making.
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