, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 26-33

The uncertainty of certainty in clinical ethics

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Abstract

Physicians accept fallibility in technical matters as a condition of medical practice. When it comes to moral considerations, physicians are often loathe to act without a good deal more certitude and seem less willing to accept error. This article argues that ethics is intrinsic to medical decision making, that error is the inevitable risk of any action and that inaction (clearly action by default) carries even greater risk of error. Whether in the moral or the technical sphere, error must be accepted by physicians as part of the learning process which informs and enriches future decisions. Moral virtue, it is concluded, resides more in the making of a decision and in the agony of making it than it does in the potentially fallible decision itself.