The Two-Headed Physician

  • Li Way LeeEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Advances in Behavioral Economics book series (PABE)


When compassion and the Hippocratic Oath pull Dr. Smith in different directions, Dr. Smith finds a compromise. Dr. Smith acts as the arbiter in bargaining. Knowing this, a patient can take any of three steps to influence the physician’s decision: (1) reduce dependency on the physician by gaining access to palliative care; (2) find a physician who has a lot of compassion for patients; and (3) go with an experienced general practitioner, rather than a specialist.


Compassion Hippocratic Oath Two-headed physician 


  1. Carmel, Sarah, and Elizabeth Mutran. “Stability of Elderly Persons’ Expressed Preferences Regarding the Use of Life-Sustaining Treatments.” Social Science and Medicine, 49 (3), August 1999, pp. 303–311.Google Scholar
  2. Christakis, Nicholas A. Death Foretold: Prophecy and Prognosis in Medical Care. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  3. Covinsky, Kenneth E., et al. “Communication and Decision-Making in Seriously Ill Patients: Findings of the Support Project.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 48 (5), Supplement (May 2000), pp. S187–S193.Google Scholar
  4. Danis, M., J. Garrett, R. Harris, and D. L. Patrick. “Stability of Choices About Life-Sustaining Treatments.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 120 (7), 1 April 1994, pp. 567–573.Google Scholar
  5. Ditto, Peter H., et al. “Stability of Older Adults’ Preferences for Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment.” Health Psychology, 22 (6), November 2003, pp. 605–615.Google Scholar
  6. Fried, Terri R., Elizabeth H. Bradley, Virginia R. Towle, and Heather Allore. “Understanding the Treatment Preferences of Seriously Ill Patients.” New England Journal of Medicine, 346 (14), 4 April 2002, pp. 1061–1066.Google Scholar
  7. Hamermesh, Daniel S., and Neal M. Soss. “An Economic Theory of Suicide.” Journal of Political Economy, 82 (1), January/February 1974, pp. 83–98.Google Scholar
  8. Hammes, B. J., and B. L. Rooney. “Death and End-of-Life Planning in One Midwestern Community.” Archives of Internal Medicine, 158 (4), 1998, 383–390.Google Scholar
  9. Lee, Li Way. “Compassion and the Hippocratic Oath.” Journal of Socio-Economics, 37 (5), October 2008, pp. 1724–1728.Google Scholar
  10. Luce, R. Duncan, and Howard Raiffa. Games and Decisions. New York: Wiley, 1957.Google Scholar
  11. O’Brien, L. A., J. A. Grisso, G. Maislin, K. LaPann, K. P. Krotki, P. J. Greco, E. A. Siegert, and L. K. Evans. “Nursing Home Residents’ Preferences for Life-Sustaining Treatments.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 274 (22), 1995, pp. 1775–1779.Google Scholar
  12. Patrick, Donald L., Robert A. Pearlman, Helene E. Starks, Kevin C. Cain, William G. Cole, and Richard F. Uhlmann. “Validation of Preferences for Life-Sustaining Treatment: Implications for Advance Care Planning.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 127 (7), 1997, pp. 509–517.Google Scholar
  13. Rietjens, Judith, Agnes van der Heide, Elsbeth Voogt, Bregie D. Onweteaka-Philipsen, Paul J. van der Maas, and Gerrit van der Wal. “Striving for Quality or Length at the End-of-Life: Attitudes of the Dutch General Public.” Patient Education and Counseling, 59 (2), November 2005, pp. 158–163.Google Scholar
  14. SUPPORT Principal Investigators. “A Controlled Trial to Improve Care for Seriously Ill Hospitalized Patients: The Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 274 (20), 22/29 November 1995, pp. 1591–1598.Google Scholar
  15. Veatch, Robert. M. A Theory of Medical Ethics. New York: Basic Books, 1981.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

Personalised recommendations