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What makes a good GP? An empirical perspective on virtue in general practice
  1. A Braunack-Mayer
  1. Correspondence to:
 A Braunack-Mayer
 Lecturer in Ethics, Department of Public Health, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia;


This paper takes a virtuist approach to medical ethics to explore, from an empirical angle, ideas about settled ways of living a good life. Qualitative research methods were used to analyse the ways in which a group of 15 general practitioners (GPs) articulated notions of good doctoring and the virtues in their work. I argue that the GPs, whose talk is analysed here, defined good general practice in terms of the ideals of accessibility, comprehensiveness, and continuity. They regarded these ideals significant both for the way they dealt with morally problematic situations and for how they conducted their professional lives more generally. In addition, I argue that the GPs who articulated these ideals most clearly were able to, in part, because they shared the experience of working in rural areas. This experience helped them to develop an understanding of the nature of general practice that their urban colleagues were less able to draw on. In that sense, the structural and organisational framework of general practice in rural areas provided the context for their understanding of ideals in general practice.

  • virtue theory
  • general practice
  • qualitative research
  • professional ethics

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  • Later drafts of this paper were written while the author was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol. The paper was first presented at a seminar at the Centre for Primary Care and Social Medicine, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London.