The Changing Conscience of Healthcare: Vows vs. Laws in the Anatomy of a Profession


2010 Parallel Paper Presentation, Beyond Therapy: Exploring Enhancement and Human Futures.


Abstract: The profession of medicine, as traditionally understood, is a moral endeavor necessarily entailing the activities of moral agents. Historically these activities have been bounded by internally derived moral constraints that have been determined by the profession itself. In recent years, there has been an increasing intrusion of externally imposed rules and laws onto the profession, which has disrupted the integrity of the professional, and threatened the conscience of the individual moral agents. Such actions undermine the concept of a profession, as it has been understood.

This paper considers the concept of conscience from an individual as well as a corporate perspective, examining both what it is and what it is not. It will consider the impact that changes in our healthcare system, particularly the regulation of moral determinations and the ways in which such regulations alter the object of professional obligations, will have on the concept of medicine as a profession.


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