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Book and Media Reviews
February 9, 2011

The Virtuous Psychiatrist: Character Ethics in Psychiatric Practice

JAMA. 2011;305(6):624-625. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.116

Psychiatrists have historically been singled out as unique among medical professionals for mostly obvious reasons—they do not hang stethoscopes around their necks, do not typically wear white laboratory coats, and the main tool of their trade is human discourse (although the latter has been eclipsed lately by psychopharmacology and neuroscience).

On the surface, The Virtuous Psychiatrist, part of the International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry series from Oxford University Press, also singles out psychiatry, but along different rhetorical coordinates. First, it argues that to be a psychiatrist, one has to possess a set of virtues so essential that their absence utterly hinders the practitioner. Second, it maintains that these virtues need not be in one's genes; rather, they are eminently teachable, subject to nurturing and propagation in persons who propose to be psychiatrists.

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