Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making

Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making

Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making

Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making

Excerpt

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the practice of medicine in the United States underwent a most remarkable—and thoroughly controversial—transformation. Although the changes have altered almost every aspect of the relationship between doctor and patient— indeed, between medicine and society—the essence can be succinctly summarized: the discretion that the profession once enjoyed has been increasingly circumscribed, with an almost bewildering number of parties and procedures participating in medical decision making. As late as 1969, the philosopher Hans Jonas could assert that "the physician is obligated to the patient and to no one else.... We may speak of a sacred trust; strictly by its terms, the doctor is, as it were, alone with his patient and God." But even as he wrote, the image of a physician alone with a patient was being supplanted by one of an examining room so crowded that the physician had difficulty squeezing in and of a patient surrounded by strangers.

Well into the post—World War II period, decisions at the bedside were the almost exclusive concern of the individual physician, even when they raised fundamental ethical and social issues. It was mainly doctors who wrote and read about the morality of withholding a course of antibiotics and letting pneumonia serve as the old man's best friend, of considering a newborn with grave birth defects a "stillbirth" and sparing the parents the agony of choice and the burden of care, of . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.