Volume 9, Issue 4, Winter 2009
Patrick Guinan, M.D.
Autonomy Has Not Killed Hippocrates
The Hippocratic tradition in medicine was declared to be over a generation ago. Classical medicine with the time-honored doctor–patient relationship was deemed paternalistic. Autonomy, in large part because of the Belmont Report of 1979, was ascendant. A new academic discipline, bioethics, was to replace
medical ethics. The patient would be free of paternalism, and health care would not look back. But it has not worked out that way. It seems that where life-threatening disease is concerned, a patient cannot be truly autonomous. Bioethics has a role in health care, but the Hippocratic tradition and its doctor–patient relationship remain at the heart of medical ethics. This tradition has served mankind well for twenty-five hundred years and is anything but dead today. Modern society would do well to acknowledge and respect the Hippocratic tradition. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 9.4 (Winter 2009): 681–688.