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Med Health Care Philos. 2017 Sep;20(3):383-391. doi: 10.1007/s11019-017-9757-2.

Caregiver burden and the medical ethos.

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Institut für Philosophie, Universität Duisburg-Essen, Universitätsstr. 12, 45141, Essen, Germany.
Forschungsstelle Ethik, Uniklinik Köln, Universitätsstr. 91, 50931, Köln, Germany.


Are physicians sometimes morally required to ease caregiver burden? In our paper we defend an affirmative answer to this question. First, we examine the well-established principle that medical care should be centered on the patient. We argue that although this principle seems to give physicians some leeway to lessen caregivers' suffering, it is very restrictive when spelled out precisely. Based on a critical analysis of existing cases for transcending patient-centeredness we then go on to argue that the medical ethos should indeed contain a rule requiring physicians to alleviate caregiver burden under certain circumstances. Finally, we apply our findings to deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson's disease. We present empirical data from a recent study of DBS indicating that spousal caregivers of Parkinson patients treated with DBS are sometimes deeply troubled by the effects of the therapy and discuss what moral obligations the treating physicians may have in such cases.


Caregiver burden; Deep brain stimulation; Keywords; Medical ethos; Patient-centeredness

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