What Does ‘Respect’ Mean? Exploring the Moral Obligation of Health Professionals to Respect Patients
- 766 Downloads
Respect is frequently invoked as an integral aspect of ethics and professionalism in medicine, yet it is often unclear what respect means in this setting. While we recognize that there are many reasonable ways to think about and use the term ‘respect’, in this paper, we develop a conception of respect that imposes a distinct moral duty on physicians. We are concerned mainly with the idea of respect for persons, or more specifically, respect for patients as persons. We develop an account of respect as recognition of the unconditional value of patients as persons. Such respect involves respecting the autonomy of patients, but we challenge the idea that respect for autonomy is a complete or self-sufficient expression of respect for persons. Furthermore, we suggest that the type of respect that physicians owe to patients is independent of a patient’s personal characteristics, and therefore, ought to be accorded equally to all. Finally, the respect that we promote has both a cognitive dimension (believing that patients have value) and a behavioral dimension (acting in accordance with this belief).
Key wordsethics respect for persons respect for autonomy professionalism
Dr. Beach is a recipient of a K-08 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and a Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Physician Scholar.
Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest
None of the authors has any financial conflict of interest to report.
- 1.American Medical Association. Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Social Contract with Humanity. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/upload/mm/369/decofprofessional.pdf [2001 (cited 2005 Mar. 7)]
- 2.Beauchamp TL, Childress JF. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. 5th edn. New York: Oxford University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
- 3.Medical professionalism in the new millennium: a physician charter. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(3):243–6.Google Scholar
- 8.Canadian Medical Association. Professionalism In Medicine (CMA Series of Health Care Discussion Papers). http://www.cma.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/8358/la_id/1.htm [ 2001 [cited 2005 Mar. 7]
- 9.Association of American Medical Colleges. Learning Objectives for Medical Student Education: Guidelines for Medical Schools. http://www.aamc.org/meded/msop/msop1.pdf [1998 [cited 2005 Mar. 7]; Report I
- 10.Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education. ACGME Outcome Project. http://www.acgme.org/outcome/comp/compFull.asp [2001 (cited 2005 Mar. 7)]
- 13.Schneider CE. The Practice of Autonomy; Patients, Doctors, and Medical Decisions. New York: Oxford University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
- 15.Halpern J. From detached concern to empathy: humanizing medical practice. New York: Oxford University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
- 16.National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; 1979.Google Scholar