Diverging traditions: Professional and religious medical ethics of the nineteenth century

  • Robert M. Veatch
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 49)


The existing literature provides only a poor understanding of the history of nineteenth-century American medical ethics. That literature gives us considerable insight into the background of the passage of the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics of 1847, including the widely adopted state and local association codes beginning with the Boston Medical Association code of 1808 ([3], [4], [22], [24], [25]). What we do not know much about is how these codifications played among physicians and non-physician intellectuals concerned about the morality of the practice of medicine in a period of considerable controversy and confusion. Of particular interest is the reception, if any, of the 1847 AM A Code and its predecessors among those doing what we would now call medical ethics in the religious traditions of the time. While modern associations of physicians have taken considerable interest in the writing of codes of ethics to govern the relations of physicians and patients, it would be a serious mistake to assume that medical ethics is synonymous with these professionally generated codes. Not only do physicians as well as other health professionals have views on the ethics of the lay-professional relation that may differ from the codes of their organized associations, many other groups (see [15]) - religious, governmental, and philosophical - have had well-developed positions on the ethics of medicine and the roles of the patient and professional healer.


Nineteenth Century Medical Ethic Ethical Tradition Hippocratic Oath Catholic Tradition 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert M. Veatch
    • 1
  1. 1.the Joseph and Rose kennedy Institute of EthicsGeorgetown UniversityWashington, D.C.

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