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Medical learning curves and the Kantian ideal

Abstract

A hitherto unexamined problem for the “Kantian ideal” that one should always treat patients as ends in themselves, and never only as a means to other ends, is explored in this paper. The problem consists of a prima facie conflict between this Kantian ideal and the reality of medical practice. This conflict arises because, at least presently, medical practitioners can only acquire certain skills and abilities by practising on live, human patients, and given the inevitability and ubiquity of learning curves, this learning requires some patients to be treated only as a means to this end. A number of ways of attempting to establish the compatibility of the Kantian Ideal with the reality of medical practice are considered. Each attempt is found to be unsuccessful. Accordingly, until a way is found to reconcile them, we conclude that the Kantian ideal is inconsistent with the reality of medical practice.

  • Kantian ideal
  • learning curves
  • medical practice

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