The internal morality of clinical medicine: a paradigm for the ethics of the helping and healing professions

J Med Philos. 2001 Dec;26(6):559-79. doi: 10.1076/jmep.26.6.559.2998.


The moral authority for professional ethics in medicine customarily rests in some source 'external' to medicine, i.e., a pre-existing philosophical system of ethics or some form of social construction, like consensus or dialogue. Rather, 'internal' morality is grounded in the phenomena of medicine, i.e., in the nature of the clinical encounter between physician and patient. From this, a philosophy of medicine is derived which gives moral force to the duties, virtues and obligations of physicians qua physicians. Similarly, an ethic specific to the other healing professions, law, teaching or ministry, can be derived from the specific ends to telos of each of these professions, which like medicine, are focused on a special type of human relationship.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Morals*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Philosophy, Medical*
  • Physician's Role
  • Physician-Patient Relations