Title

Beneficence, Interests, and Wellbeing in Medicine: What It Means to Provide Benefit to Patients

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-27-2020

Publication Title

The American Journal of Bioethics

Volume

20

Issue

3

First page number:

53

Last page number:

62

Abstract

Beneficence is a foundational ethical principle in medicine. To provide benefit to a patient is to promote and protect the patient’s wellbeing, to promote the patient’s interests. But there are different conceptions of wellbeing, emphasizing different values. These conceptions of wellbeing are contrary to one another and give rise to dissimilar ideas of what it means to benefit a patient. This makes the concept of beneficence ambiguous: is a benefit related to the patient’s goals and wishes, or is it a matter of objective criteria that constitute wellbeing? This paper suggests a unified conception of wellbeing for use in medicine to determine what counts as a benefit. Two components of wellbeing are identified: (1) objective functioning/health and (2) the patient’s view of her own good. The paper explores how to apply, balance, and weigh these components in clinical situations to determine what counts as a benefit to a patient.

Keywords

Beneficence; Benefit; Harm; Wellbeing; Interests; Welfare

Disciplines

Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Medicine and Health Sciences

Language

English

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