The internal morality of medicine: an evolutionary perspective

J Med Philos. 2001 Dec;26(6):581-99. doi: 10.1076/jmep.26.6.581.2993.


A basic question of medical ethics is whether the norms governing medical practice should be understood as the application of principles and rules of 'the common morality' to medicine or whether some of these norms are 'internal' or 'proper' to medicine. In this article we describe and defend an evolutionary perspective on 'the internal morality of medicine' that is defined in terms of the goals of clinical medicine and a set of duties that constrain medical practice in pursuit of these goals. This perspective is developed by means of a critical examination of the 'essentialist' conception of the internal morality of medicine advocated by Edmund Pellegrino and the critique of internal morality approaches by Robert Veatch and Tom Beauchamp.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics
  • Clinical Competence
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Morals*
  • Social Responsibility
  • Social Values