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Value promotion as a goal of medicine
  1. Eric Mathison1,
  2. Jeremy Davis2
  1. 1 Clinical Ethics, Alberta Health Services, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2 Department of English and Philosophy, US Military Academy, West Point, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eric Mathison, Clinical Ethics, Alberta Health Services, Lethbridge, AB T1J 1W5, Canada; mathisonej{at}


In this paper, we argue that promoting patient values is a legitimate goal of medicine. Our view offers a justification for certain current practices, including birth control and living organ donation, that are widely accepted but do not fit neatly within the most common extant accounts of the goals of medicine (ie, those that focus on healing or best interests). Moreover, we argue that recognising value promotion as a goal of medicine will expand the scope of medical practice by including some procedures that are sometimes rejected as being outside the scope of acceptable medical practice, such as certain forms of physician-assisted death. We then rebut some common and possible objections to this view. Our aim is not to argue that other accounts are mistaken—except when they argue for a single goal that does not include patient values—but rather to show that value promotion should play a more central role in discussions about the goals of medicine.

  • autonomy
  • decision-making
  • end of life care
  • informed consent
  • philosophy of medicine

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  • Contributors The authors contributed equally to all parts of this paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

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