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The Virtues in Medical Practice

Bernard H. Adelson, MD
JAMA. 1994;272(16):1303-1304. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520160095056.
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The discipline of medical ethics is at present principle-based ethics, using, among others, the concepts of duty, justice, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and autonomy as precepts. Principles are universal guides to action, and virtues, according to Aristotle, are "a state of character" that "brings into good condition the thing of which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing to be done well." In recent years there has begun to appear a reevaluation of virtue-based ethics with a return, as it were, to the teachings of Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas. Two eminent ethicists, one a physician (Edmund Pellegrino) and one a philosopher (David Thomasma), present to us in this book a lucid, thoughtful, and impressively organized description of the philosophical foundation of virtue-based ethics. Their treatise demonstrates in logical sequence how to relate the virtues of the practice of medicine to the ends of the practice of medicine.


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