Pain: Ethics, Culture, and Informed Consent to Relief

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 24 (4):348-359 (1996)
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As medical technology becomes more sophisticate the ability to manipulate nature and manage disease forces the dilemma of when can becomes ought. Indeed, most bioethical discourse is framed in terms of balancing the values and interests and the benefits and burdens that inform principled decisions about how, when, and whether interventions should occur. Yet, despite advances in science and technology, one caregiver mandate remains as constant and compelling as it was for the earliest shaman—the relief of pain. Even when cure is impossible, the physician's duty of care includes palliation. Moreover, the centrality of this obligation is both unquestioned and universal, transcending time and cultural boundaries.Although universally acknowledged, pain is a complex phenomenon for both the patient and the caregiver, influenced as much by personal values and cultural traditions as by physiological injury and disease.



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Jeffrey Blustein
CUNY Graduate Center