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Reference: Linden, David, (1999). Medicine and morality in the ancient world. DPhil. University of Oxford.Citable link to this page:


Medicine and morality in the ancient world Subtitle: An analysis of Galen's medical and philosophical writings

Abstract: The great power of the medical profession over the lives of men entails a wealth ofmoral problems in medical practice and lends particular importance to questions of theresponsibility of the physician. We investigate the solutions offered by Galen, the mostprolific medical author of classical Antiquity, in his medical and philosophical writings.Issues of ethics and moral psychology are discussed in numerous passages ofGalen's works, and he even devoted a number of treatises exclusively to ethics. Themain results of our analysis of these treatises and passages can be summarized asfollows. Starting with his interpretation of a prominent Hippocratic maxim, we discusspossible motivations for Galen's re-definition of the relationship between physician andpatient. For Galen, it was the physician, not the patient, who led the fight against thedisease. This prominent position of the Galenic physician entailed particular obligationsand responsibilities. But Galen also took the view that certain responsibilities residedwith the patient, particularly that of selecting the right physician and keeping theprescribed diets. Moreover Galen thought that everybody ought to pursue the systematicliberation of the soul from passions and errors, guided by his ethical methodology.Galen gave disciplined care for one's health and acquisition of medical knowledge thestatus of moral duties for every educated person. For physicians, he provided a wealthof additional principles and rules of conduct, covering areas as diverse as experimentationwith drugs, surgical risks, promulgation of knowledge on poisons, remunerationand other social impacts of medicine, and medical education, all of them inspired byrespect for the health of man, the animal who topped the teleological hierarchy ofcreation, and medicine, the art whose task it was to preserve and restore man's health.Galen held medicine in exceptionally high esteem, even by the standards of physicians.His view of medicine as the divine art kat 'exochen is considered in the context of hishigh valuation of human life and health. Health assumed a high rank in the hierarchyof goods, for it provided the basis for all the other goods and virtues. For Galen,preservation and restoration of health could be attained only on the basis of a soundscientific methodology. He was reluctant to apply criteria external to medicine properto its practice, and mostly judged the morality of medical activities by the adherenceto the principles of a well-founded therapy and avoidance of undue harm.

Type of Award:DPhil Level of Award:Doctoral Awarding Institution: University of Oxford Notes:The digital copy of this thesis has been made available thanks to the generosity of Dr Leonard Polonsky

Bibliographic Details

Issue Date: 1999Identifiers

Urn: uuid:986686c2-8397-43ae-9b61-44ffdf85770a

Source identifier: 602330234 Item Description

Type: Thesis;

Language: eng Subjects: Ethics Medical ethics Tiny URL: td:602330234


Autor: Linden, David - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultyFaculty of Literae Humaniores - - - - Bibliographic Details Issue Date: 19



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