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Teach Learn Med. 2017 Jan-Mar;29(1):75-84. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2016.1205497. Epub 2016 Jul 28.

Project on the Good Physician: A Proposal for a Moral Intuitionist Model of Virtuous Caring.

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a Department of Psychology , Point Loma Nazarene University , San Diego , California , USA.
b Center for Health and Social Sciences, University of Chicago , Chicago , Illinois , USA.
c Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, & History of Medicine, Duke University , Durham , North Carolina , USA.
d MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago , Chicago , Illinois , USA.



In the Project on the Good Physician, the authors endeavor to advance medical character education by proposing and testing a moral intuitionist model of virtuous caring that may be applicable to physician training. This model proposes that the moral intuition to care/harm motivates students to extend care to those in need.


Hypothesis 1: Medical students will report stronger preferences for the intuition to Care/harm over other moral intuitions in clinical decision making. Hypothesis 2: Care/harm will have the strongest correlation with Generosity than the other moral intuitions. Hypothesis 3: There will be positive associations between Care/harm and the caring virtues (Mindfulness, Empathic Compassion, and Generosity). Hypotheses 4-5: The virtue of Empathic Compassion (or Mindfulness) will moderate the relationship between Care/harm and Generosity. Hypotheses 6-7: Neuroticism (or Burnout) will negatively moderate the association between Care/harm and Generosity (or between Empathic Compassion and Generosity).


The authors used data from a 2011 nationally representative sample of U.S. medical students (N = 500) to test the relationship between the moral intuition to Care/harm and physician caring virtues. Moral intuitions were assessed using the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, whereas physician virtues were measured using scales adapted from validated constructs.


The authors found that students reported stronger preferences for the intuition to Care/harm over the four other moral intuitions. Each moral foundation was weakly but significantly correlated with Generosity, yet Care/harm had the strongest correlation among them. Neuroticism and Burnout did not weaken the link between Care/harm and the virtues.


Data from the descriptive-correlational study reported here offer preliminary support for the construct validity of an educational model that targets the moral intuitions. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of a moral intuitionist approach for medical character education and offers three hypotheses for future empirical research.


Medical character education; caring virtues; moral intuitionism; relationship-centered care; social intuitionist model

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