“First, do no Harm”: Uncaring and Incompetent Healthcare

By James A. Marcum.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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In this paper, I reconstruct a case study from the healthcare literature in which healthcare providers inflicted psychological and emotional harm upon a patient. To that end, I first examine the role vices play in such harmful and dysfunctional healthcare practice. Specifically, I investigate the vices of (1) uncaring, the disposition or attitude of a person who is incapable of feeling concern or empathy for another, and (2) incompetence, the incapability to perform tasks according to accepted professional standards generally due to persistent errors in both judgment and practice. Moreover, I explore the cyclic relationship between the two vices that exacerbates poor quality healthcare for patients, often with harmful outcomes. Finally, I discuss the issues surrounding the introduction of virtues into healthcare education to remedy the vices students often learn inadvertently, during their educational experience.

Keywords: Do no Harm, Healthcare Education, Healthcare Practice, NONMALEFICENCE, Vices, Virtues

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 812.162KB).

James A. Marcum

Professor, Deaprtment of Philosophy, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA

James A. Marcum is professor of philosophy and director of the Medical Humanities Program at Baylor University in the USA. He received doctorates in philosophy from Boston College and in physiology from the University of Cincinnati Medical College. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a faculty member of Harvard Medical School before coming to Baylor University. He has received grants from several funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the American Heart Association. His research interests include philosophical and historical issues in science and medicine. Examples of his recent publications include articles in Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, Synthese, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Perspectives on Science, Annals of Science, and History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. His most recent book is An Introductory Philosophy of Medicine: Humanizing Modern Medicine. Philosophy and Medicine Series, volume 99. New York: Springer, 2008.