The Problematic Virtue of Physician Exceptionalism Open Access

Mang, Maggie (2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/bz60cx10m?locale=en
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Abstract

This thesis looks specifically at virtues within the medical community, focusing on the virtue of physician exceptionalism as an example of a problematic virtue. Taking Alasdair MacIntyre's point on virtue ethics and bioethicist Edmund Pellegrino's own interpretation as it pertains to medicine as initial grounding points, this thesis seeks to unpack how a virtue could be problematic in essence. Within medical education, the virtue of physician exceptionalism is internalized, reinforced, and inherited through subtler avenues such as through medical school's hidden curriculum. Ultimately, physician exceptionalism is a problematic virtue because it leads to the distortion of physician self-image as it relates to physician psychological distress, seen starkly in the high rates of depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, and suicide completion. As a virtue, physician exceptionalism contributes to certain goals of medicine, yet is problematic in the way it negatively affects its practitioners. Fundamentally, the nature of something as oxymoronic as a ‘problematic virtue' as a distinct and separate category has larger, philosophical implications in how we approach, understand, and converse about the virtues in our everyday life and society.

Table of Contents

Introduction…………….…………….…………….…………….…………….…………….…………….…………….…………….1

I. Virtues in the Medical Community ………………….…………….…………….…………….…………….…………….4

Alasdair MacIntyre and virtues……………….…………….……………….…………….……………….……….4

Pellegrino on medicine as a moral community……………………………………………………………….6

The virtue of physician exceptionalism…………………………………………………………………………..7

II. On the virtue of exceptionalism as found and perpetuated within the medical community…11

Virtue of physician exceptionalism as inherent within Pellegrino's moral community….11

The implicit reinforcement of physician exceptionalism……………………………………………….13

Current climate of physician psychological distress………………………………………………………17

III. Analysis and concluding remarks…………………………………………………………………………………………19

The problematic nature of physician exceptionalism as a virtue…………………………………..19

Concluding remarks and future implications………………………………………………………………..22

Notes……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….26

References…..…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..26

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