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October 24, 1980

Ethical Dilemmas in the Care of the III: II. What Is the Patient's Good?

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 1980;244(17):1946-1949. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310170044025

IN REFLECTING on the nature of the medical vocation, we have come via a somewhat labyrinthine path to a not very startling assertion: the doctor, by teaching and technique, through patient understanding and astute judgment, promotes the patient's good. Our third perplexity follows directly: What is the patient's good? More precisely, of the many things that are good for the patient, which is it the physician's business to promote? We are no longer asking about medicine's foreign or domestic relations, but about its very constitution: What is the purpose of medicine?

This is, in a way, a strange question to be asking, since most of the time physicians can go about unreflectively doing their proper business, tacitly if silently clear about the nature and limits of the purposes of medicine. But because new technological powers permit physicians to serve multiple ends, and because much of medical practice is so fragmented

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