What does history tell us about the ethics of doctoring?

Sherwin Nuland • SEPTEMBER 9, 2014

Sherwin Nuland of Yale University offers an expansive look at the ethics of doctoring, covering two thousand years of Western history. He discusses the importance of the image that the doctor presents to the patient, and how that has evolved since the days in which there was very little that medical science could do to help patients clinically to today. Nuland touches on various doctrines that emerged through the centuries, such as therapeutic nihilism, which he describes as the contention that it is better not to attempt any treatment (in part because it is of more scientifically valuable to study the bodies of patients after they die). Today, as we have more technology and more distance separating patients from physicians, Nuland argues that we should examine not just medical education but the entire edifice of healthcare, and through new policies and practices reemphasize the art of nurturing care.

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