Maintaining primary professional virtues by protecting properly oriented relationships: Medical practice as a case study

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This chapter argues that protecting the proper orientation of professional-client/patient relationships is a crucial way of maintaining the respective primary virtues among practitioners in each profession. Taking medicine as a case study, I argue that the primary medical virtue of medical beneficence can be supported by protecting the therapeutic orientation of doctor-patient relationships against potentially undermining influences. To illustrate this proposal, I focus on the impact on doctors’ prescribing behaviour of various commercial influences, such as direct-to-consumer-advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals, and pharmaceutical marketing activities aimed directly at doctors. In doing so I indicate how extending professional role applications of virtue ethics provides an instructive way of developing policy applications of virtue ethics, and how virtue ethics can thereby assist in achieving important policy goals. I presented an earlier version of this chapter at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues “Varieties of Virtue Ethics” Conference, Oriel College, Oxford, January 2016. I wish to thank the audience at this conference for their helpful feedback. I received especially valuable comments on this chapter from Tom Burns, Sean Cordell, Roger Crisp, Ann Gallagher, Tony and Sally Hope, Michael Lamb, Kristján Kristjánsson, and David Lorimer. I am also very grateful to David Carr, for his guidance and editorial suggestions in preparing this chapter for publication. This chapter draws extensively on my article “Virtue ethics and public policy: Upholding medical virtue in therapeutic relationships as a case study”, Journal of Value Inquiry 50, 2016. I wish to thank the guest editor of that issue of the journal, Richard Hamilton, for allowing me to draw on this article. Material from that article is used with permission of Springer: Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016. Part of the research for this chapter was supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Project research grant DP1094577.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVarieties of Virtue Ethics
EditorsDavid Carr, James Arthur, Kristjan Kristjansson
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781137591777
ISBN (Print)9781137591760
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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