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Accepting a helping hand can be the right thing to do
  1. Arthur Caplan
  1. Correspondence to Professor Arthur Caplan, Division of Medical Ethics, Department of Population Health, NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA; Arthur.Caplan{at}

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The underappreciated moral theorist Benjamin Franklin in his youth made up a list of virtues he felt ought to be followed as sound guides for living one's life. Some of the virtues he prescribed relate to personal behaviour: temperance, order, resolution, frugality, moderation, industry, cleanliness and tranquillity. The rest are social character traits: sincerity, justice, silence, chastity and humility. He never abandoned his faith in those values, teaching them to his son and anyone who cared to read his Poor Richard's Almanack. In his autobiography, Franklin tells us that he kept a diary in which he evaluated, on a daily basis, his success in living up to each virtue.1

That Franklin enjoyed a life in which the virtues he extolled were not omnipresent is well known. He would be the first to confess that there were more than a few occasions when he failed to live up to his own moral teaching.1 What is interesting about his virtue ethic is not his personal struggle to conform to it but his belief that moral character is made …

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