Beyond health care accountability: The gift of medicine

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 29 (1):119 – 133 (2004)
E. Haavi Morreim's book, Holding Health Care Accountable , insightfully describes several features of the current crisis in malpractice in relation to the health care marketplace. In this essay, I delineate the key and eminently practical guide for reform that she lays out. I argue that her insights bring us to more fundamental aspects than immanent medical economy and accountability - aspects that are ignored at present. I describe the features of immanent economy and how they tend to cover over epistemological and existential finitude in medicine, show how economy can in fact create new medical knowledge, and show that necessary error is a real feature of day-to-day medical practice. The current system, even with Morreim's reforms, remains at the level of immanent economy, but with modifications may point to the features of medicine that transcend medical knowledge and economy. The gifts of medicine cannot be reduced to the immanent medical economy, and any attempt to do so results in crisis. A health care that points to finitude and fallibility is one that points to the mystery of human existence and mortality. Any health care financing system that helps to delineate finitude - both epistemological and existential - is one that will give patients a new lease on living and dying.
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