Goals of Medicine in the Course of History and Today: A Study in the History and Philosophy of Medicine

By Betcher, Jeffrey G. | Ethics & Medicine, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Goals of Medicine in the Course of History and Today: A Study in the History and Philosophy of Medicine


Betcher, Jeffrey G., Ethics & Medicine


Goals of Medicine in the Course of History and Today: A Study in the History and Philosophy of Medicine Kurt Fleischhauer and Göran Hermerén. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International, Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien (The Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities), 2006. ISBN 91-7402-353-5; 480 PAGES, HARDCOVER, $127.50

The study of medicine does not extend very far before one comes up against the intrinsic goals of medicine and the fact that the practice of medicine is often as much an exercise in ethics as it is of science. The objective of the authors in this book is to provide an in-depth study of the goals of medicine from antiquity. At first blush, it would seem to be a relatively straightforward task. After all, the telos of Western medicine has its roots in the Hippocratic tradition with the relief of suffering in the patient at its very core. As the history of medicine is traced, however, the goals become as complex and multifaceted as the discipline itself.

Goals of Medicine in the Course of History and Today is divided into two parts: a survey of the history of medicine and the concomitant changes in its goals, followed by a philosophical consideration of the goals of medicine in the present. The historical survey takes up two thirds of the content as the authors wind their way through history adding layer upon layer as the complexity of study and practice grew. By the time the reader is taken to the middle of the twentieth century, the goals of medicine have become so multifaceted and divergent that the areas of cosmetic surgery, abortion, contraception, medical genetics, and medical research are chosen as topics to illustrate this. …

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