In the traditional view of the patient-physician relationship, physicians are obligated to act in the best medical interests of their individual patients and should not compromise their patients' care for the sake of third parties (persons outside this relationship). In truth, it is doubtful that physicians have ever fully upheld this uncompromising standard, and more recently some have advocated a balance between concern for the individual patient and concern for the greater good in contexts such as clinical research and cost containment.1- 3 But the traditional, exclusively patient-centered ethic continues to exert a powerful hold on physicians' self-conceptions and patients' expectations, perhaps in part because the medical profession so far has failed to articulate an alternative principle to guide how physicians should weigh the claims of patients and third parties.
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