In defense of ethically caring physicians


  • Matthew S. McCabe Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland



virtue, ethics of care, physician-patient relationship


Ever since its introduction 20 years ago, the Ethics of Care has encountered sharp opposition in the context of medical practice. In this essay I endeavour to provide a systematic defence of ethical caring as a virtue for physicians. I begin by briefly describing the initial formulation of the Ethics of Care. I then present the arguments by critics who oppose ethical caring in medical practice. These arguments range from assertions that caring physicians will be more likely to suffer from professional burnout to claims that they will become more likely to be unethically paternalistic. Next, I will identify more recent contributions to the Ethics of Care from Rita Manning and Michael Slote. Armed with a more fully developed conception of ethical caring, I respond to each of the critical arguments. I finish by describing how ethical caring fits nicely with a well regarded understanding of the physicianpatient relationship.

Author Biography

Matthew S. McCabe, Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland

Dr Matthew S. McCabe is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. His fields of expertise are in Theoretical and Applied Ethics. Specifically, he is contributing to the development of the Virtue Ethics of Care and its application to issues in Medical Ethics.



How to Cite

McCabe, M. S. (2008). In defense of ethically caring physicians. Communication and Medicine, 5(1), 15–24.