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October 17, 1980

Ethical Dilemmas in the Care of the III: I. What Is the Physician's Service?

Author Affiliations

From the College and the Committee on Social Thought, the University of Chicago, Chicago.

JAMA. 1980;244(16):1811-1816. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310160027019

Physicians must continue to rely on their own powers of discernment and prudent judgment and not look to external "expert" guidance or expect simple solutions in facing the myriad ethical dilemmas in caring for the ill. Their ability to exercise the requisite virtues in particular cases requires, however, greater self-consciousness and thoughtfulness about the nature and purpose of medicine, including such questions as the following: Who and what is the physician? Whom and what does he serve? What is his relation to his patient and society? In exploring these questions, this article discusses how and why the medical profession's perception of its ethical dilemmas may differ from that of the broader American society and how physicians must respond to protect and preserve the integrity of their profession.

(JAMA 244:1811-1816, 1980)