J Med Ethics 36:648-651 doi:10.1136/jme.2010.036822
  • Clinical ethics

Limitation of the diagnostic effort in paediatrics

  1. Carmen Martínez González
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carmen Martínez González, Primary Care Center San Blas. SERMAS, General Oraá (street) number 32, 5a C, Madrid 28006, Spain; carmendiri{at}
  • Received 21 March 2010
  • Revised 17 May 2010
  • Accepted 21 May 2010
  • Published Online First 26 July 2010


The principle objective of a diagnosis is not to categorise symptoms, or group a combination of signs or clinical symptoms in a coherent way, but to cure a patient or improve their quality of life. Diagnoses that are technically correct, but do not seek this objective may become unnecessary labels which convert healthy people, or those who do not consider themselves to be sick, into patients. We propose a limitation of the diagnostic effort in order to reduce the iatrogenic consequences of these unnecessary labels or diagnoses, a new imperative which, in Kantian terms, can be expressed as: examine and treat your patients in such a way that, at the very least, the effects of your actions always improve the quality of their lives.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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