Common morality has been the touchstone of medical ethics since the publication of Beauchamp and Childress's Principles of Biomedical Ethics in 1979. Rosamond Rhodes challenges this dominant view by presenting an original and novel account of the ethics of medicine, one deeply rooted in the actual experience of medical professionals. She argues that common morality accounts of medical ethics are unsuitable for the profession, and inadequate for responding to the particular issues that arise in medical practice. Instead, Rhodes argues that medicine's distinctive ethics should be explained in terms of the trust that society allows to the profession. Trust is the core and starting point of Rhodes' moral framework, which states that the most basic duty of doctors is to "seek trust and be trustworthy."
In The Trusted Doctor: Medical Ethics and Professionalism (Oxford UP, 2020), Rhodes explicates the sixteen specific duties that doctors take on when they join the profession, and demonstrates how her view of these duties is largely consistent with the codes of medical ethics of medical societies around the world. She then explains why it is critical for physicians to develop the attitudes or "doctorly" virtues that comprise the character of trustworthy doctors and buttress physicians' efforts to fulfill their professional obligations. Her book's presentation of physicians' duties and the elements that comprise a doctorly character, together add up to a cohesive and comprehensive description of what medical professionalism really entails. Rhodes's analysis provides a clear understanding of medical professionalism as well as a guide for doctors navigating the ethically challenging situations that arise in clinical practice.
Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine. She teaches and writes about health behavior in historical context.