Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 399–412 | Cite as

Professional Paternalism

  • John KultgenEmail author


This article points out how far-reaching the changes in our public life would actually have to be if we wanted to avoid paternalism altogether. For example, the widespread view that only a physician with training at a recognized institution should be allowed to perform surgery or that only an educated lawyer may provide legal council is clearly paternalistic. In fact, many professional regulations, not just in medicine and law, but also in engineering and many other areas of expertise, have a strongly paternalistic function. Moreover, this problem is located in a sphere that is neither clearly private, nor seems to be part of a state-legislated public sphere. Professional organizations are neither governments, nor necessarily democratic, but they are often state-certified and produce binding regulations for issues of public interest. The author bites the bullet and accepts professional paternalism, while insisting that special care should be placed on how to design an appropriate professional code of conduct.


Paternalism Autonomy Professions Training Institutions 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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