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August 1986

The New Medical Ethics-Reply

Author Affiliations

Rochester, NY

Arch Intern Med. 1986;146(8):1631. doi:10.1001/archinte.1986.00360200209041

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In Reply.  —The problem with the new medical ethics is the unspoken problem within philosophic ethics: there is no reasonable and validated ethical theory. For physicians, this theoretical difficulty may not seem important. If eclecticism is necessary, physicians have used it in a pragmatic way. Unfortunately, the theoretical problem with ethics is more serious than an eclecticism. It is a question of the ability to say anything truly meaningful. When ethics is applied to medical management, that theoretical problem becomes a real and present danger to the management of illnesses afflicting people. As a wise clinician, Dr Clark knows in practice that autonomy is not inviolate and still feels the accountability of his professional expertise. But the new ethics cannot reasonably explain or conceptually justify his practical knowledge. It gives no ethical relevance to his medical judgment, because it argues that ethical statements or evaluations cannot be derived from scientific

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