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The philosophical moment of the medical decision: revisiting emotions felt, to improve ethics of future decisions
  1. Pierr Le Coz1,*,
  2. Sebastien Tassy2
  1. 1Espace Ethique Méditerranéen, Hôspital de la Timone, Marseille, France
  2. 2Département de Médecine Interne/Gériatrie, Pr Soubeyrand, Hôpital Sainte Marguerite, Marseille, France
  1. Correspondence to:
 Pr P Le Coz
 Espace Ethique Méditerranéen Hôpital d’adultes de la Timone 264 rue Saint Pierre 13385 Marseille Cedex 5, France; Pierre.Lecoz{at}


The present investigation looks for a solution to the problem of the influence of feelings and emotions on our ethical decisions. This problem can be formulated in the following way. On the one hand, emotions (fear, pity and so on) can alter our sense of discrimination and lead us to make our wrong decisions. On the other hand, it is known that lack of sensitivity can alter our judgment and lead us to sacrifice basic ethical principles such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. Only emotions can turn a decision into an ethical one, but they can also turn it into an unreasonable one. To avoid this contradiction, suggest integrating emotions with the decisional factors of the process of “retrospective thinking”. During this thinking, doctors usually try to identify the nature and impact of feelings on the decision they have just made. In this retrospective moment of analysis of the decision, doctors also question themselves on the feelings they did not experience. They do this to estimate the consequences of this lack of feeling on the way they behaved with the patient.

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  • * Professor of Philosophy, Member of the French National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences.

  • Competing interests: None.

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