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

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

Robert M. Veotch (Georgetown University Press, 2012, 242 pp)

The author, a professor of medical ethics, provides an interesting perspective on the Hippocratic Oath, which has become distilled in the popular awareness as the doctor's injunction to "do no harm." In reality, not only has the Hippocratic Oath been replaced by other ethical codes in medical professional groups, Veatch argues that the full language of the oath is impractical for several reasons, among them that it seems to prohibit surgery. On an ethical level, however, the author's premise is that the Hippocratic Oath gives undue weight to the physician's judgment and elevates the injunction to avoid harm to the patient above all other considerations, including societal good.

Then the book tackles more modern ethical systems, such as those adopted by groups of medical professionals, and finds these to be problematic as well. Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics delineates the many competing voices that become evident in a conflict over hospital policy or medical practice, offering several different ethical frameworks, among them those dealing with human rights. Besides walking away with the idea that there is no simple or singular way to articulate a physician's responsibilities, readers may be interested in the author's view that even those medical personnel following religious ethical systems must do so with humility and tolerance of other views because human fallibility is always a factor.

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Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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