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It is more than ever desirable that the members of the medical profession should maintain, not only amongst themselves, but also towards the general public, a high standard of conduct and morals, and with the aim of fostering this ideal, I send out this little book.
SURGEONS' Hall, Edinburgh.
W. G. A. R.
MINISTRATION OF ANÆSTHETICS
MEDICAL CONDUCT AND
ETHICS AS A BRANCH OF PHILOSOPHY
THE study of ethics or the science of morals and of duty is of supreme importance to every one, but to no one more so than to the medical practitioner, who is brought into very close social relations with his patients. Unless, therefore, the doctor keeps constantly before him a very high standard of duty and conduct he may easily lapse from the ethical ideal.
In the ancient philosophies ethics was that branch which was concerned with human character and conduct. Aristotle (who was the first to apply the Greek word Oos-nikós, habit, usage, or custom, or again character, disposition, to this division of philosophy) affirmed that the chief ethical end lay in the perfect development of a man's self in moral and intellectual excellence.
Ethics concerns itself with what one ought to do, and consequently investigates the nature of duty and deals with what is right or wrong in conduct; to this end its object is to consider one's duties to oneself as well as to others. It also studies what one ought to be, and, as a result of this, it endeavours to
build up a scheme of virtues by means of which character may be formed.
That branch of ethics which deals with a man's moral duty to the community or people generally, as well as to the lower animals, is known as Utilitarianism. This has often been stated as "the chief end," or supreme good," and means the greatest possible good to the greatest number of persons. From our point of view, and in actual practice, the whole scope of medicine in relation to the public health is based on this aspect of ethics.
The science of Hygiene largely consists in framing and carrying out laws which regulate and, to a certain extent, limit, the power of the individual so as to restrain him from inflicting danger or injury on the community. Thus he may be interdicted from carrying on his business if it constitutes a nuisance to people generally; he is segregated if he is suffering from a communicable disease lest he spread it to others, etc.
When men live in a community, it is absolutely necessary that each individual member should so regulate his life and conduct as to conduce to the welfare of the whole. The aim and object of good government is to secure this.
By Medical Ethics is meant that body of rules and principles concerning moral obligation which is intended to regulate medical practice. These rules have not been drawn up by any body of medical or other men, but have for so long a time received the unanimous assent of the medical profession as a whole that they have become binding on each individual member.