What does it mean to be a virtuous patient?

Virtue from the patient's perspective

Authors

  • Alastair V. Campbell University of Bristol
  • Teresa Swift University of Bristol

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.v5i1.29

Keywords:

virtue, ethics, patients, chronic illness, pastoral care

Abstract

This paper shifts the focus of biomedical ethics away from the dilemmas of doctors and towards patients and their responses to chronic illness. It explores the possible virtues needed to flourish despite ongoing pain and disability. An empirical study, investigating patients' perspectives on the role of character in illness, revealed that patients valued qualities such as courage, realism, self-respect, a sense of humour, hope and the ability to maintain good relationships with others. Such qualities may characterise the "virtuous patient". These findings carry a number of practical implications for the pastoral care of those suffering from chronic illnesses. These include working towards the empowerment of patients, and an appreciation of the healing force of humour and the value of communication, all of which assist patients in their efforts to maintain their self-respect, their sense of a role in their community, and a sense of purpose in their lives.

Author Biographies

Alastair V. Campbell, University of Bristol

Alastair Campbell is Professor of Ethics in medicine and Director of the Centre for Ethics in Medicine at the University of Bristol.

Teresa Swift, University of Bristol

Teresa Swift is Research officer at the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol.

References

ARISTOTLE 1980 The Nichomachean Ethics, translated by David Ross. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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CAMPBELL AV. 1986 The Gospel of Anger SPCK, London.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 2001 The Expert Patient: a new approach to chronic disease management for the 21st century. HMSO, London.

HAUERWAS S. 1997 Practicing Patience: How Christians should be sick. In Hauerwas S. and Pinches C. Christians among the Virtues, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame. 166-178.

LEBACQZ K. 1985 The virtuous patient. In Shelp E (ed.) Virtue and Medicine. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht. 275-288.

SHELP E. 1984 Courage: a neglected virtue in the patient-physician relationship Social Science and Medicine 18:4:351-360.

SMITH J, JARMAN M, OSBORN M. 1999 Doing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In: Murray M and Chamberlain K (eds.) Qualitative Health Psychology. Sage Publications, London. 218240.

Published

2013-05-28

How to Cite

Campbell, A., & Swift, T. (2013). What does it mean to be a virtuous patient? Virtue from the patient’s perspective. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 29–35. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.v5i1.29