Physician and patient: Respect for mutuality

Philosophers and physicians alike tend to discuss the physician-patient relationship in terms of physician privilege and patient autonomy, stressing the duty of the physician to respect the autonomy and the variously elaborated rights of the patient. The authors of this article argue that such emphasis on rights was initially productive, in a first generation of debate on medical ethical issues, but that it is now time for a second generation effort that will stress the importance of the unique experiential aspects of the physician-patient relationship — mutual trust, suffering and healing. We attempt here to initiate this second-generation discussion, presenting the first generation's philosophical background, criticizing it from the perspective of clinical experience, and seeking a synthesis in the relational qualities of patient and physician interacting in a medical context.
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