Measuring ‘virtue’ in medicine

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19 (2):149-161 (2016)
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Abstract

Virtue-approaches to medical ethics are becoming ever more influential. Virtue theorists advocate redefining right or good action in medicine in terms of the character of the doctor performing the action. In medical education, too, calls are growing to reconceive medical education as a form of character formation. Empirical studies of doctors’ ethics from a virtue-perspective, however, are few and far between. In this respect, theoretical and empirical study of medical ethics are out of alignment. In this paper, we survey the empirical study of medical ethics and find that most studies of doctors’ ethics are rules- or principles-based and not virtue-based. We outline the challenges that exist for studying medical ethics empirically from a virtue-based perspective and canvas the runners and riders in the effort to find virtue-based assessments of medical ethics.

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Ben Kotzee
University of Birmingham