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HEC Forum. 2012 Dec;24(4):257-72. doi: 10.1007/s10730-012-9202-0.

How virtue ethics informs medical professionalism.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0521, USA.


We argue that a turn toward virtue ethics as a way of understanding medical professionalism represents both a valuable corrective and a missed opportunity. We look at three ways in which a closer appeal to virtue ethics could help address current problems or issues in professionalism education-first, balancing professionalism training with demands for professional virtues as a prerequisite; second, preventing demands for the demonstrable achievement of competencies from working against ideal professionalism education as lifelong learning; and third, avoiding temptations to dismiss moral distress as a mere "hidden curriculum" problem. As a further demonstration of how best to approach a lifelong practice of medical virtue, we will examine altruism as a mean between the extremes of self-sacrifice and selfishness.

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