Medical Ethics, Modern Situations

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In the narrow sense, the term "medical ethics" refers to the Oath of Hippocrates, which idealistically defines the relationship between a practicing doctor, his patients, his peers and-by implication-human society as a whole. From this frame of reference, the doctor or medical practitioner is bound, primarily, by honor or a fear of professional reprisal to conduct him or herself in a manner that best serves the public good.


According to Steinberg, "Medical ethics in the modern sense refers to the application of general and fundamental ethical principles to clinical practice situations, including medical research," (Steinberg 1998: 3).
This suggests that, in the modern sense, medical ethics are increasingly being approached from a far more broad perspective than in the recent past; many scholars and medical doctors are not regarding the Oath as the sole source of ethical guidance for the ever-diversifying profession. Instead, a somewhat more comprehensive, or holistic, approach toward analyzing medical ethics has evolved out of the complex problems and questions facing modern society-questions surrounding new applications of science, engineering, social theory and social or political debates. These questions deal with issues such as biomedical engineering, cloning, stem cell research, physician assisted suicide, abortion rights, as well as the role of the hospital itself; and although some such issues may seem very specific, the philosophical implications for how they might be handled or addressed are far-reaching, and indicate what the fundamental relationship between medical practitioner and patient might be-or should be.
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