Against the magnanimous in medical ethics

J Med Ethics. 1990 Sep;16(3):124-8. doi: 10.1136/jme.16.3.124.


Supererogatory acts are considered by some to be part of medicine, whereas others accept supererogation to be a gratuitous virtue, to be extolled when present, but not to be demanded. The present paper sides with those contending that medicine is duty-bound to benefit patients and that supererogation/altruism must per definition remain outside and beyond any role-description of the profession. Medical ethics should be bound by rational ethics and steer away from separatist views which grant exclusive privileges but also create excessive demands, way beyond what physicians perform or are willing and able to offer.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Beneficence*
  • Ethical Analysis*
  • Ethical Theory
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Paternal Behavior
  • Paternalism
  • Physicians*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Virtues*