Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
Ethics—or at least writing about ethics—is certainly in. From a mere cottage trade 20 years ago, initiated by a handful of theologians and philosophers, a thriving discipline and enterprise has blossomed, replete with countless texts, manuals, societies, hospital committees, and even peripatetic consultants, all intent on helping us calibrate our moral compass in order to be better health care practitioners.
Unfortunately, given the recent spate of well-documented examples of Medicare fraud, managed care shenanigans, and recalcitrant approaches to end-of-life care in everyday practice, one wonders if this blizzard of moral manna is having the desired effect. But those of us in the movement have also seen real progress, particularly in educational settings and training programs. In addition, since virtually no practicing health care providers ever read the traditional, philosophically based volumes about medical ethics, a much needed evolution in the past decade has been the proliferation of more condensed, clinically focused, user friendly texts. Although decried by some purists as incomplete, sketchy, sound-bite morality, these texts serve a necessary role in the training and practice of physicians and other health care workers who generally lack the interest, time, and energy to pursue nuanced moral reasoning in a comprehensive text.
Clinical EthicsClinical Ethics: A Practical Approach to Ethical Decisions in Clinical Medicine. JAMA. 1998;279(22):1839-1840. doi:10.1001/jama.279.22.1839-JBK0610-5-1