Does virtue ethics contribute to medical ethics? : an examination of Stanley Hauerwas' ethics of virtue and its relevance to medical ethics

The aim of this thesis is to examine the concept of virtue ethics in Stanley Hauerwas's understanding of virtue and delineate how that contributes to his ethical reasoning and his comprehension of medical ethics. The first chapter focuses on the shift that occurred in moral theory under the stance of the Enlightenment that eroded the traditional idea of morality as the formation of the self, allowing space for new concepts that dismissed the importance of the agent in the ethical task of seeking the good. In the second chapter, the three main ideas that make up Hauerwas' ethical theory are examined with a particular attention to the importance of agency in moral life. The third chapter describes how Hauerwas' medical ethics, informed by his moral theory based on character, vision, and narrative, is relevant to medical ethics. Hauerwas argues that because medicine is a form of human activity with internal goods and standards of excellence intrinsic to its practice, it requires taking into account the notion of agency in the healing relationship. Finally, in the last chapter the specific religious discourse of Hauerwas' ethics is discussed in relation to secular medical ethics. In other words, this thesis raises the question of whether the reduction of medical ethics to a set of principles, as it is mostly the case today, represents a suitable picture of the reality of moral life in medicine.
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