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Perspect Biol Med. 2012 Winter;55(1):114-26. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2012.0002.

The foundation of physicianship.

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Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


Although the practice of medicine continually changes in response to new biomedical understanding, novel technologies, and evolving cultural contexts, the ethical foundations of the clinical relationship between patient and physician paradoxically remain constant. There are fundamental characteristics with respect to character, behavior, and responsibilities that are descriptive of and necessary to the role of healer and that underpin the notion of physicianship. This article discusses the underlying characteristics or virtues that are necessary to the practice of medicine from the perspectives of three different philosophic traditions: the Aristotelian idea of phronesis as developed in the work of Edmund Pellegrino; the notion of alterity as framed by Emmanuel Levinas; and the attributes necessary to healing as laid out in the kabbala.

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