A 55-year-old man with hyperlipidemia and hypertension has an uncomplicated myocardial infarction. You are writing his prescriptions, preparing for hospital discharge.
Clinicians are likely to differ considerably on their approach to this patient. Why? Differing medical knowledge and experience account for some of the variability. But knowledge of ethics and its application also contribute. What is ethics? Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.” How we have come to define good and bad is complex. Most behaviors described as ethical or good are those that respect or aid others. Some would argue that God has given or instilled ethics in us. Or, as with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Oversoul, our unity with God and nature can allow us to intuit right and wrong. Even nonreligious ethics suggest that discrimination of good and evil can be found within. For example, Immanuel Kant suggested his “categorical imperative,” ie, taking an action for its own sake, is derived using reason.