HEC Forum

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 257–272 | Cite as

How Virtue Ethics Informs Medical Professionalism



We argue that a turn toward virtue ethics as a way of understanding medical professionalism represents both a valuable corrective and a missed opportunity. We look at three ways in which a closer appeal to virtue ethics could help address current problems or issues in professionalism education—first, balancing professionalism training with demands for professional virtues as a prerequisite; second, preventing demands for the demonstrable achievement of competencies from working against ideal professionalism education as lifelong learning; and third, avoiding temptations to dismiss moral distress as a mere “hidden curriculum” problem. As a further demonstration of how best to approach a lifelong practice of medical virtue, we will examine altruism as a mean between the extremes of self-sacrifice and selfishness.


Virtue ethics Medical professionalism Moral distress Altruism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for the Medical HumanitiesUniversity of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA

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