This paper seeks to define and delimit the scope of the social responsibilities of health professionals in reference to the concept of a social contract. While drawing on both historical data and current empirical information, this paper will primarily proceed analytically and examine the theoretical feasibility of deriving social responsibilities from the phenomenon of professionalism via the concept of a social contract.
In the literature three mechanisms are commonly distinguished to make decisions about the care of incompetent patients: A living will, a substituted judgment by a surrogate (who may or may not hold the power of attorney ), and a best interest judgment. Almost universally, the third mechanism is deemed the worst possible of the three, to be invoked only when the former two are unavailable. In this article, I argue in favor of best interest judgments. The evermore common aversion of (...) best interest judgments entails a risk that health care providers withdraw from the decision-making process, abandoning patients (or their family members) to these most difficult of decisions about life and death. My approach in this article is primarily negative, that is, I criticize the alleged superiority of the living will and substituted judgment. The latter two mechanisms gain their alleged superiority because they are supposedly morally neutral, whereas the best interest judgment entails a value judgment on behalf of the patient. I argue that on closer inspection living wills and substituted judgments are not morally neutral; indeed, they generally rely on best interest judgments, even if those are not made explicit. (shrink)
In order to protect patients against medical paternalism, patients have been granted the right to respect of their autonomy. This right is operationalized first and foremost through the phenomenon of informed consent. If the patient withholds consent, medical treatment, including life-saving treatment, may not be provided. However, there is one proviso: The patient must be competent to realize his autonomy and reach a decision about his own care that reflects that autonomy. Since one of the most important patient rights hinges (...) on the patient's competence, it is crucially important that patient decision making incompetence is clearly defined and can be diagnosed with the greatest possible degree of sensitivity and, even more important, specificity. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. There is little consensus in the scientific literature and even less among clinicians and in the law as to what competence exactly means, let alone how it can be diagnosed reliably. And yet, patients are deemed incompetent on a daily basis, losing the right to respect of their autonomy. In this article, we set out to fill that hiatus by beginning at the very beginning, the literal meaning of the term competence. We suggest a generic definition of competence and derive four necessary conditions of competence. We then transpose this definition to the health care context and discuss patient decision making competence. (shrink)
This article examines whether cosmetic interventions by dentists and plastic surgeons are medically indicated and, hence, qualify as medical interventions proper. Cosmetic interventions (and the business strategies used to market them) are often frowned upon by dentists and physicians. However, if those interventions do not qualify as medical interventions proper, they should not be evaluated using medical-ethical norms. On the other hand, if they are to be considered medical practice proper, the medical-ethical principles of nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice and others hold (...) true for cosmetic interventions as much as they do for other medical and dental interventions. It is concluded that most cosmetic interventions do not qualify as medical interventions proper because they do not restore or maintain the patient's health (defined as the patient's integrity) by any objective standards. Rather, cosmetic interventions are intended to enhance a person's physical appearance; more specifically, they intend to fulfill the client's subjective perception of an enhanced appearance. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that the relationship between patients and their health care providers need not be construed as a contract between moral strangers. Contrary to the (American) legal presumption that health care providers are not obligated to assist others in need unless the latter are already contracted patients of record, I submit that the presence of a suffering human being constitutes an immediate moral commandment to try to relieve such suffering. This thesis is developed in reference to the (...) French philosopher Levinas and the Dutch theologian Schillebeeckx. An expanded version of the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan serves as test case. (shrink)
This article starts with a brief historical account of the ongoing debate about the status of clinical ethics: theory of practice. The author goes on to argue that clinical ethics is best understood as a practice. However, its practicality should not be measured by the extent to which clinical-ethical consultants manage to mediate or negotiate resolutions to ethical conflicts. Rather, clinical ethics is practical because it is characterized by a profound concern for the well-being of individual patients as well as (...) the moral parameters of swift and urgent medical action in the face of limited supportive information. (shrink)
In reference to historical developments, this article introduces the topic of this special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, that is, the relationship(s) between theory and practice. The authors emphasize the need for scientific research in this neglected area for the sake of both clinical practice and medical education.
This article provides a summary overview of the ideas on medical anthropology and anthropological medicine of the German philosopher-psychiatrist Viktor Emil von Gebsattel (1883–1974), and discusses in more detail his views on the doctor-patient relationship. It is argued that Von Gebsattel''s warning against a dehumanization of medicine when the person of both patient and physician are not explicitly present in their relationship remains valid notwithstanding the modern emphasis on respect for patient (and provider) autonomy.
Increasingly, contemporary medical ethicists have become aware of the need to explicate a foundation for their various models of applied ethics. Many of these theories are inspired by the apparent incompatibility of patient autonomy and provider beneficence. The principle of patient autonomy derives its current primacy to a large extent from its legal origins. However, this principle seems at odds with the clinical reality. In the bioethical literature, the notion of authenticity has been proposed as an alternative foundational principle to (...) autonomy. This article examines this proposal in reference to various existentialist philosophers (Heidegger, Sartre, Camus and Marcel). It is concluded that the principle of autonomy fails to do what it is commonly supposed to do: provide a criterion of distinction that can be invoked to settle moral controversies between patients and providers. The existentialist concept of authenticity is more promising in at least one crucial respect: It acknowledges that the essence of human life disappears from sight if life's temporal character is reduced to a series of present decisions and actions. This also implies that the very quest for a criterion that allows physicians to distinguish between sudden, unexpected decisions of their patients to be or not to be respected, without recourse to the patient's past or future, is erroneous. (shrink)
The legalization of euthanasia, both in the Netherlands and in other countries is usually justified in reference to the right to autonomy of patients. Utilizing recent Dutch jurisprudence, this article intends to show that the judicial proceedings on euthanasia in the Netherlands have not so much enhanced the autonomy of patients, as the autonomy of the medical profession. Keywords: allowing to die, criminal law, euthanasia, law enforcement, legal aspects, legislation, medical ethics, medical profession, self determination, the Netherlands, voluntary euthanasia, withholding (...) treatment CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)