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March 11, 1983

Professing Ethically: On the Place of Ethics in Defining Medicine

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 1983;249(10):1305-1310. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330340047030

Medicine, despite technological advances and societal changes, remains essentially what it has always been, a profession rather than a trade, with its own ends, means, and intrinsic norms of conduct. Being a professional is an ethical matter, entailing devotion to a way of life, in the service of others and of some higher good. The medical profession is devoted to the naturally given end of health and assists the immanent powers of self-healing. It serves the needs as it treats the infirmities of the sick, sensitive to their vulnerability, shame, and exposure and mindful of the meaning of the delicate tension between bodily wholeness and necessary decay. These special characteristics imply specific and inherently medical obligations, both of omission and commission, as well as an appropriately reverential stance of the physician before his chosen profession.

(JAMA 1983;249:1305-1310)

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