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Respect for patient autonomy as a medical virtue*

  • Thomas Cook (a1), Constantine D. Mavroudis (a2), Jeffrey P. Jacobs (a3) (a4) and Constantine Mavroudis (a3) (a4)

Respect for patient autonomy is an important and indispensable principle in the ethical practice of clinical medicine. Legal tenets recognise the centrality of this principle and the inherent right of patients of sound mind – properly informed – to make their own personal medical decisions. In the course of everyday medical practice, however, challenging cases may result in ethical dilemmas for the patient, the physician, and society. Resolution of these dilemmas requires a thorough understanding of the underlying principles that allow the clinician to make informed decisions and to offer considered therapeutic options to the patient. We argue in this paper that there is also need for a transition of moral competency from understanding principles to attaining virtue in the classic Aristotelian tradition. Achieving moral virtue is based on a lifetime of learning, practising, and watching how others, who have achieved virtue, act and perform their duties. We further claim that learning moral virtue in medical practice is best realised by incorporating the lessons learnt during daily rounds where frank discussions and considered resolutions can occur under the leadership of senior practitioners who have achieved a semblance of moral excellence.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to: Dr C. Mavroudis, MD, Johns Hopkins Children’s Heart Surgery, Florida Hospital for Children, 2501 N. Orange Avenue, Suite 540, Orlando, FL 32804, United States of America. Tel: 407 303 3697; Fax: 407 303 3634; E-mail:
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Presented at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute 15th Annual International Symposium on Congenital Heart Disease, Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States of America, Friday 6 February, 2015 to Monday 9 February, 2015.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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19. C Mavroudis . Presidential address, the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association: a partnership in courage. Ann Thorac Surg 2003; 75: 13661371.

21. JE Chamberlain , JA Nisker . Residents’ attitudes to training in ethics in Canadian obstetrics and gynecology programs. Obstet Gynecol 1995; 85: 783786.

22. L Parker , L Watts , H Scicluna . Clinical ethics ward rounds: building on the core curriculum. J Med Ethics 2012; 38: 501505.

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Cardiology in the Young
  • ISSN: 1047-9511
  • EISSN: 1467-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/cardiology-in-the-young
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