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April 23, 1982

A Theory of Medical Ethics

JAMA. 1982;247(16):2293. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320410069037

Veatch's volume now takes its place in the third generation of works on medical ethics to appear since this field was revitalized in the 1960s. The first-generation books, mostly collections of essays, called attention to the importance of ethical issues in medicine and summarized current physician thinking. The second generation, to which Veatch made notable contributions (as associate for medical ethics at the Hastings Center, before assuming his current position as professor of medical ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown), produced single-author texts or carefully edited anthologies, isolating central principles and subjecting first-generation views to critical scrutiny. We are now in need of treatises like this one that look beneath and beyond case- and issue-oriented analyses to discern the theoretical underpinnings of a true system of medical ethics.

A Theory of Medical Ethics contrasts usefully with another distinguished third-generation work, Edmund Pellegrino and David Thomasma's A Philosophical