Beneficence, Interests, and Wellbeing in Medicine: What It Means to Provide Benefit to Patients

American Journal of Bioethics 20 (3):53-62 (2020)
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Beneficence is a foundational ethical principle in medicine. To provide benefit to a patient is to promote and protect the patient’s wellbeing, to promote the patient’s interests. But there are different conceptions of wellbeing, emphasizing different values. These conceptions of wellbeing are contrary to one another and give rise to dissimilar ideas of what it means to benefit a patient. This makes the concept of beneficence ambiguous: is a benefit related to the patient’s goals and wishes, or is it a matter of objective criteria that constitute wellbeing? This paper suggests a unified conception of wellbeing for use in medicine to determine what counts as a benefit. Two components of wellbeing are identified: (1) objective functioning/health and (2) the patient’s view of her own good. The paper explores how to apply, balance, and weigh these components in clinical situations to determine what counts as a benefit to a patient.



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Citations of this work

Well-being—more than health?Anna Hirsch - 2021 - Ethik in der Medizin 33 (1):71-88.
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A Capabilities-Based Account of Wellbeing.Peter Koch - 2020 - American Journal of Bioethics 20 (3):85-87.
Beneficence and Wellbeing: A Critical Appraisal.Laurence B. McCullough - 2020 - American Journal of Bioethics 20 (3):65-68.

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References found in this work

Principles of biomedical ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by James F. Childress.
Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly.Norman Daniels - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
Well-Being.Roger Crisp - 2017 - In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.

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