The Hippocratic Oath, Medical Power, and Physician Virtue [Book Review]

Philosophia 49 (3):913-922 (2020)
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Abstract

In this paper, I supplement T. A. Cavanaugh’s arguments against physician-assisted suicide in his book, Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake, by focusing more specifically on the dangers of the misuse of physician power and on the virtues essential to restrain such power. Since Cavanaugh’s starting point is similar to Edmund Pellegrino’s views on the fundamental ends of medicine, I start with the question of the proper ends of medicine. Cavanaugh’s interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath as the limitation of physician power to heal and to kill raises the issue of the proper use of physician power over the patient. In order to support and strengthen Cavanaugh’s case, I use Richard Zaner’s discussion of physician power over the patient and the attendant duty to use such power in a responsible way. Finally, I supplement Cavanaugh’s discussion with a fuller account of physician virtues as they relate to physician-assisted suicide. I first discuss the ends of medicine, medical power, and physician-assisted suicide. Second, I discuss the relationship between virtue and physician-assisted suicide. Third, I draw some final conclusions.

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References found in this work

After virtue: a study in moral theory.Alasdair C. MacIntyre - 1981 - Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.
The nature of suffering and the goals of medicine.Eric J. Cassell - 1991 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The virtues in medical practice.Edmund D. Pellegrino - 1993 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by David C. Thomasma.

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