, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 5–11

Philosophy of medicine as the source for medical ethics

  • David C. Thomasma
  • Edmund D. Pellegrino

DOI: 10.1007/BF00886339

Cite this article as:
Thomasma, D.C. & Pellegrino, E.D. Metamedicine (1981) 2: 5. doi:10.1007/BF00886339


The article offers an approach to inquiry about, the foundation of medical ethics by addressing three areas of conceptual presupposition basic to medical ethical theory. First, medical ethics must presuppose a view about the nature of medicine. it is argued that the view required by a cogent medical morality entails that medicine be seen both as a healing relationship and as a practical art. Three ways in which medicine inherently involves values and valuation are presented as important, i.e., in being aimed at the good of health, in being a cognitive art evaluating towards that good, and as a manifestation of a virtuous disposition concerning that good. Finally, a value ontology drawn from these considerations is seen as necessarily underlying medical ethics. A set of three such basic values are promoted as crucial: the value of health; the value of the individual patient; and the value of altruism that mediates the class of potential patients.

Key words

Philosophy of medicineNature of medicineHealing relationshipTechne iatrikeMedical ethicsValue ontologyAxiologyHealthValuesPatientPhysicianMedicalethical decisions

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. Thomasma
    • 1
  • Edmund D. Pellegrino
    • 2
  1. 1.Program on Human Values and EthicsUniversity of Tennessee Center for the Health SciencesMemphisUSA
  2. 2.The Catholic University of AmericaWashington, D. C.USA