Clinical Practice, Clinical Ethics

Eric J. Cassell, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(4):627-628. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360040045008.
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There are physicians who make patient-care decisions as part of their everyday life, but who are still unconvinced of the importance of the "fuss" about ethics. It is understandably difficult for many physicians, raised on a belief in medical science and surrounded by the effective technology that is the hallmark of today's practice, to acknowledge that medicine as practiced is fundamentally a moral or moral-technical profession. Such an understanding, however, does not undermine scientific medicine nor detract from technology, but rather provides a basis for seeking help for those painful and difficult decisions that have always been the burden of physicians and the source of their grace.

To understand the moral nature of medicine and why the recent growth of medical ethics is so helpful, one has only to return to Otto Guttentag's simple and basic definition of the practice of medicine—in the setting of the threat to life inherent


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