From principles to principals: The new direction in medical ethics

Many alternatives or supplements to principalism seek to reconnect medical ethics with the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the persons directly involved in ethically troublesome situations. This shift of attention, from deeds to doers, from principles to principals, acknowledges the importance of the moral agents involved in the situation — particular practitioners, patients, and families. Taking into account the subjective, lived experience of moral decision-making parallels recent efforts in the teaching of medicine to give the patient''s subjectivity — his or her personal experience of being sick or disabled — epistemological parity with scientific medicine''s objective, biomedically-oriented view of the person''s sickness or disability.Moreover, the shift from principalism to principals signals a growing realization that ethical problems in the profession of medicine are inseparable from its practice. Philosophers and other humanists working in medicine should resist the temptation to institutionalize a professional role as solver of ethical problems, clarifier of values, or mediator of disputes and work instead to help practitioners practice medicine reflectively.
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