Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics

Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics: The Points of Conflict

Robert M. Veatch
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tt2m7
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    Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics
    Book Description:

    Where should physicians get their ethics? Professional codes such as the Hippocratic Oath claim moral authority for those in a particular field, yet according to medical ethicist Robert Veatch, these codes have little or nothing to do with how members of a guild should understand morality or make ethical decisions. While the Hippocratic Oath continues to be cited by a wide array of professional associations, scholars, and medical students, Veatch contends that the pledge is such an offensive code of ethics that it should be summarily excised from the profession. What, then, should serve as a basis for medical morality? Building on his recent contribution to the prestigious Gifford Lectures, Veatch challenges the presumption that professional groups have the authority to declare codes of ethics for their members. To the contrary, he contends that role-specific duties must be derived from ethical norms having their foundations outside the profession, in religious and secular convictions. Further, these ethical norms must be comprehensible to lay people and patients. Veatch argues that there are some moral norms shared by most human beings that reflect a common morality, and ultimately it is these generally agreed-upon religious and secular ways of knowing-thus far best exemplified by the 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights-that should underpin the morality of all patient-professional relations in the field of medicine. Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics is the magnum opus of one of the most distinguished medical ethicists of his generation.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-947-8
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Hippocratic Problem
    (pp. 1-9)

    The Hippocratic Oath often commands the status of a timeless, universal moral code for physicians and other health practitioners. A widespread assumption exists that the Oath is an uncontroversial moral code for the practice of medicine at any time or place under which physicians pledge that they will always work for the benefit of the patient and protect the patient from harm. While that is the Hippocratic pledge, this pledge occupies a status far from the harmless platitude often assigned to it. In this book I reexamine the Hippocratic Oath and, more generally, professional ethics in the Hippocratic tradition to...

  6. CHAPTER 1 THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH AND THE ETHIC OF HIPPOCRATISM
    (pp. 10-29)

    Regardless of the modern widespread acceptance of the Hippocratic Oath as an uncontroversial, platitudinous statement with universal application, its origins are more eccentric. It is associated with the Hippocratic school of medicine in ancient Greece, one among many competing medical schools of thought. Its adherents came up against the Empiricists, Rationalists, Methodists, and Asclepions. The Hippocratic school, sometimes referred to as the Coan school, was apparently centered on the island of Cos in the Aegean Sea, far removed from mainland Greece and some four kilometers from the Turkish coast.¹

    The Oath was, in all likelihood, not written by a historical...

  7. CHAPTER 2 THE HIPPOCRATIC TRADITION: A Sporadic Retreat
    (pp. 30-66)

    Although there is evidence of the Hippocratic school in ancient Greece (Hippocrates is mentioned in Plato), it was not the dominant Greek school of medical thought.¹ Others prevailed alongside it. Thus, when some follower of Hippocrates created an oath named in his honor, it is reasonable to assume the Oath applied, at most, only to one among many schools of medical practitioners. Kudlien emphasizes that the Oath is utterly unique even among Hippocratic writings. There was no hint of its acceptance in Greek or Roman medicine. He suggests it is even possible that it was written by a single, isolated...

  8. CHAPTER 3 THE CACOPHONY OF CODES IN MEDICAL SCHOOLS AND PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
    (pp. 67-80)

    One point of contact between the physician and various professional codes (the Hippocratic and its alternatives) is in the ritual of oath taking that occurs in medical schools. Long part of the stereotype of medical education, the image of graduating medical students standing, raising their right hands, and reciting in unison some professionally generated oath is fixed in the public consciousness.

    While oath taking is part of the lore of our understanding of the crowning moment in medical education, the actual practice is more complicated than the image would suggest and it raises some very difficult moral issues. For example,...

  9. CHAPTER 4 THE LIMITS OF PROFESSIONALLY GENERATED ETHICS
    (pp. 81-102)

    The Hippocratic ethical tradition and the other professionally generated codes of medical ethics that have arisen as alternatives leave the world of medical ethics with a very unsatisfying set of options. One could attempt to revise the Oath. As we have seen, many medical schools have attempted that but have failed to achieve a satisfying revision. Alternatively, a new and different professionally generated code could be developed. In this chapter we see the problems with that approach and look at three examples of the kinds of difficulties codes written by professional groups have caused. In the following chapters we turn...

  10. CHAPTER 5 RELIGIOUS MEDICAL ETHICS: Revealed and Natural Alternatives
    (pp. 103-136)

    If Hippocratic and other professionally generated codes of medical ethics fail to provide an adequate moral foundation for physicians who are not Pythagoreans—that is, for physicians who are simultaneously members of some non-Hippocratic religious or secular community with a worldview expressing a moral perspective—then the two obvious alternatives for professionals to get their ethics from are either religious or secular ethical systems. Here I consider religious sources of medical morality; I address secular sources in chapter 6.

    Religiously committed physicians are in something of a bind if they accept the claim of the Hippocratic and other professional medical...

  11. CHAPTER 6 SECULAR ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
    (pp. 137-158)

    In the previous chapter we saw that religious moral epistemologies come in two forms: revealed and naturally knowable religious ethics. Those professionals and patients who accept one or another form of revealed religion should find themselves with a set of commitments that they believe should provide the bedrock of morality for their choices. Other traditions that have religious grounding claim that their knowledge of moral norms is available through natural processes of reason, experience, and common reflection on a moral tradition. Those religiously grounded metaethics should leave laypeople and professionals willing to enter into a common discourse with secular members...

  12. CHAPTER 7 FALLIBILISM AND THE CONVERGENCE HYPOTHESIS
    (pp. 159-192)

    I see no hope for the Hippocratic ethic or similar professional ethics. The Hippocratic ethic is dead. Some alternative foundation for a medical ethic is needed. One option for those laypeople and professionals who accept religiously mediated sources of revelation—via scripture or direct mystical communication from the deity to some individual human—is for laypeople who believe they have a source of divine revelation of the moral law to get together with health professionals who share the same revelatory beliefs. That option, unfortunately, only works for those with sectarian beliefs who are willing to develop alternative, religiously based health...

  13. APPENDIX UNIVERSAL DECLARATION ON BIOETHICS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
    (pp. 193-202)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 203-218)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 219-234)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 235-242)