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Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Aug;62(2):271-6. Epub 2005 Dec 13.

The moral nature of patient-centeredness: is it "just the right thing to do"?

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  • 1Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Patient-centeredness is regarded as an important feature of high quality patient care, but little effort has been devoted to grounding patient-centeredness as an explicitly moral concept. We sought to describe the moral commitments that underlie patient-centered care.


We analyzed the key ideas that are commonly described in the literature on patient-centeredness in the context of three major schools of ethical thought.


Consequentialist moral theories focus on the positive outcomes of providing patient-centered care. Deontological theories emphasize how patient-centered care reflects the ethical norms inherent in medicine, such as respect for persons and shared decision-making. Virtue-based theories highlight the importance of developing patient-centered attitudes and traits, which in turn influence physicians' behaviors toward their patients.


Different ethical theories concentrate on different features of patient-centered care, but all can agree that patient-centeredness is morally valuable.


In order to sustain patient-centeredness as a moral concept, practitioners and students ought to examine these ideas to determine what their own personal reasons are for or against adopting a patient-centered approach.

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