Doctor does not know best: Why in the new century physicians must stop trying to benefit patients

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 25 (6):701 – 721 (2000)
While twentieth-century medical ethics has focused on the duty of physicians to benefit their patients, the next century will see that duty challenged in three ways. First, we will increasingly recognize that it is unrealistic to expect physicians to be able to determine what will benefit their patients. Either they limit their attention to medical well-being when total well-being is the proper end of the patient or they strive for total well-being, which takes them beyond their expertise. Even within the medical sphere, they have no basis for choosing among the proper medical goals for medicine. Also, there are many plausible strategies for relating predicted benefits to harms, and physicians cannot be expert in picking among these strategies. Second, increasingly plausible ethical systems recognize that in some cases, patient benefit must be sacrificed to protect patient rights including the right to the truth, to have promises kept, to have autonomy respected, and to not be killed. Third, ethics of the next century will increasingly recognize that some patient benefits must be sacrificed to fulfill duties to others - either the duty to serve the interests of others or other duties such as keeping promises, telling the truth, and, particularly, promoting justice. Physicians in the twenty-first century will be seen as having a new, more limited duty to assist the patient in pursuing the patient's understanding of the patient's interest within the constraints of deontological ethical principles and externally imposed duties to promote justice. The result will be a duty to be loyal to the consumer of health care with the recognition that often this will mean that the physician is not permitted to pursue the physician's understanding of the patient's well-being.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1076/jmep.25.6.701.6126
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,831
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

20 ( #139,502 of 1,724,865 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #349,138 of 1,724,865 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.