The Ethics of Diagnosis

Volume 40 of the series Philosophy and Medicine pp 275-300

Post-Modern Reflections on the Ethics of Naming

  • George KhushfAffiliated withInstitute of Religion

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The attempt to model diagnosis according to the epistemological criteria of the pure sciences leads to an objectivization of the patient that undermines the clinical goal of addressing human need ([7], pp. 183–4). In order to do justice to humanistic concerns, there has been an attempt in bioethics to redescribe or “model” medical reality in such a way as to avoid the transformation of the patient into an object ([22], [25]). However, the problem facing any such attempt is formidable: The paradox of the history of medicine is that the humanistic goal of addressing the patient’s needs has been in large part furthered by way of a process in which the patient has been increasingly objectified and depersonalized ([23], p. 96). The challenge facing bioethics is thus to model diagnosis in a way that does justice to both the epistemological concerns intimately connected with objectivity as well as the ethical concerns associated with regarding the patient as a subject. Instead of rejecting “objectivity”, we msut find a way to rightly place it within a broader context.