A study of the foundations of ethical decision-making of physicians

Abstract

A study of physicians and medical students was conducted to determine the various philosophical positions they hold with respect to ethical decision-making in medicine and their epistemological presuppositions in relationship to the subjective-objective controversy in value theory. The study revealed that most physicians and medical students tend to be objectivists in value theory, i.e., believe that value judgements are knowledge claims capable of being true or false and are expressions of moral requirements and normative imperatives emanating from an external value structure or moral order in the world, but that most physicians and medical students are inconsistent in the philosophical foundations of their medical ethical decision-making, i.e., in decision-making regarding values they tend to hold beliefs which are incompatible with other beliefs they hold about values. The study also revealed that most physicians and medical students think more emphasis should be placed upon medical ethics in medical education.

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