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‘Why Not Common Morality?’ revisits an important and enduring question: is medical ethics distinct from ‘everyday’ ethics? In her paper, Rosamond Rhodes undertakes the ambitious project of answering this question, in addition to clarifying what constitutes a profession, how professions differ from ‘roles’ and how medical ethics relates to medical professionalism. Rhodes aims to challenge the status quo within medical ethics by departing from the views of certain giants within the field. The paper’s central contention is that the ethics of everyday life and medical ethics are indeed distinct—the latter cannot be derived from the former and we consequently need a new theory of medical ethics. While I am sympathetic to the aims of the project and took no small delight in Rhodes’s gumption, the paper suffers from a number of issues.
Putting aside the issue of whether Rhodes accurately represents the theories she critiques—and that is no small thing to set aside—first, many scholars have interrogated in great depth, and from many angles, the relationship between common morality and medical ethics.1–4 Scholarship from the philosophy of medicine, virtue ethics, role-differentiated ethics, narrative and care ethics has made a significant contribution to the projects of clarifying what is distinct about medical professionalism and understanding how we might subsequently treat ethical issues that arise in healthcare with due sensitivity to these myriad differences.5–10 Yet, Rhodes largely ignores this literature …
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