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Robot decisions: on the importance of virtuous judgment in clinical decision making
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Health and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Östergötlands Läns Landsting, Local Health Care Services in the West of Östergötland, Department of Psychiatry and Habilitation.
2011 (English)In: Journal of Evaluation In Clinical Practice, ISSN 1356-1294, E-ISSN 1365-2753, Vol. 17, no 5, 883-887 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Rationale, aims and objectives The aim of this article is to argue for the necessity of emotional professional virtues in the understanding of good clinical practice. This understanding is required for a proper balance of capacities in medical education and further education of physicians. For this reason an ideal physician, incarnating the required virtues, skills and knowledge is compared with a non-emotional robot that is bound to moral rules. This fictive confrontation is meant to clarify why certain demands on the personality of the physician are justified, in addition to a rule-and principle-based moral orientation and biomedical knowledge and skills. less thanbrgreater than less thanbrgreater thanMethods Philosophical analysis of thought experiments inspired by science fiction literature by Isaac Asimov. less thanbrgreater than less thanbrgreater thanResults Although prima facie a rule-oriented robot seems more reliable and trustworthy, the complexity of clinical judgment is not met by an encompassing and never contradictory set of rules from which one could logically derive decisions. There are different ways how the robot could still work, but at the cost of the predictability of its behaviour and its moral orientation. In comparison, a virtuous human doctor who is also bound to these rules, although less strictly, will more reliably keep at moral objectives, be understandable, be more flexible in case the rules come to their limits, and will be more predictable in these critical situations. Apart from these advantages of the virtuous human doctor referring to her own person, the most problematic deficit of the robot is its lacking deeper understanding of the inner mental events of patients which makes good contact, good communication and good influence impossible. Conclusion Although an infallibly rule-oriented robot seems more reliable at first view, in situations that require complex decisions like clinical practice the agency of a moral human person is more trustworthy. Furthermore, the understanding of the patients emotions must remain insufficient for a non-emotional, non-human being. Because these are crucial preconditions for good clinical practice, enough attention should be given to develop these virtues and emotional skills, in addition to the usual attention on knowledge, technical skills and the obedience to moral rules and principles.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Blackwell Publishing , 2011. Vol. 17, no 5, 883-887 p.
Keyword [en]
clinical judgment, medical education, moral emotions, moral motivation, professionalism, virtue ethics
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-71377DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2011.01720.xISI: 000295177800009OAI: diva2:448067
Available from: 2011-10-14 Created: 2011-10-14 Last updated: 2013-03-21

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Gelhaus, Petra
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Health and SocietyFaculty of Health SciencesDepartment of Psychiatry and Habilitation
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