Bodily Norms and the Ethics of Diagnosis

  • Thomas J. BoleIII
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 40)


What are the ethical obligations of the diagnostician? A patient presents herself with certain complaints, and these complaints reflect deficiencies she perceives in somatic (or psychosomatic) form or function. These deficiencies only make sense in terms of the values she places on her body. The prospect of mastectomy will mean different things for the aged nun than for the young female professional still planning on marriage and family, and the different values and designs each has for her body ought to be appreciated by the physician in diagnosis. As Maintetti points out, the patient’s views of what calls for medical intervention may differ from the physician’s [3]. In case there is a difference, whose values ought to have priority, and why? (This question is ethical, not primarily legal.) Can the diagnosing physician claim priority for the norms of good health? Or ought these normsl be subjected to the patient’s informed desires?


Ethical Obligation Competent Patient Somatic Form Objective Canon Young Unmarried Woman 
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  1. 1.
    Engelhardt, H.T., Jr.: 1986, The Foundations of Bioethics, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Leder, D.: 1992, ‘The Experience of Pain and its Clinical Implications’, in this volume, pp. 95–105.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mainetti, J.A.: 1992, ‘Embodiment, Pathology and Diagnosis’, in this volume, pp. 79–93.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Spicker, S.F.: 1992 ‘Ethics in Diagnosis: Bodily Integrity, Trust-telling, and the Good Physician’, in this volume, pp. 107–122.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. BoleIII
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA

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