Supererogation and altruism: a comment

Journal of Medical Ethics 28 (2):75-76 (2002)
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Supererogation can be distinguished from altruism, in that the former is located in the category of duty but exceeds the strict requirements of duty, whereas altruism belongs to a different moral category from duty. It follows that doctors do not act altruistically in their professional roles. Individual doctors may sometimes show supererogation, but supererogation is not a necessary feature of the medical profession. The aim of medicine is to act in the best interests of patients. This aim involves neither supererogation nor even the moral quality of beneficence. It is simply a job description. Morality enters medicine through the quality of the individual doctor's work, not by the definition of that work



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