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American Journal of Bioethics.

Diagnosis by Documentary: Professional Responsibilities in Informal Encounters

Most work addressing clinical workers’ professional responsibilities concerns the norms of conduct within established professional–patient relationships, but such responsibilities may extend beyond the clinical context. We explore health workers’ professional responsibilities in such “informal” encounters through the example of a doctor witnessing the misdiagnosis and mistreatment of a serious long-term condition in a television documentary, arguing that neither internalist approaches to professional responsibility (such as virtue ethics or care ethics) nor externalist ones (such as the “social contract” model) provide sufficiently clear guidance in such situations. We propose that a mix of both approaches, emphasizing the noncomplacency and practical wisdom of virtue ethics, but grounding the normative authority of virtue in an external source, is able to engage with the health worker’s responsibilities in such situations to the individual, the health care system, and the population at large.

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Volume 16, Issue 11
November 2016


Autonomy by Default Cass R. Sunstein