Dr. Alex John London is the Clara L. West Professor of Ethics and Philosophy and the Director for the Center for Ethics and Policy, Carnegie Mellon University.
8th March 2021
This lecture concerns the duty of medical professionals to act in the best interests of patients is a cornerstone of medical ethics. Although the refutation of medical paternalism altered the way this duty is understood, it has remained a pillar of medical ethics for centuries. However, this commitment rests on the presumption that providers possess the knowledge required to translate therapeutic intent into actual clinical benefit. In the context of novel disease, where reliable medical evidence is lacking and uncertainty is high, therapeutic intent unmoored from a duty to learn can produce self-defeating practices that harm patients and undermine the mission of medicine. This talk elaborates the moral arguments in support of a duty to learn and draws on early missteps in the response to SARS-CoV-2 to illustrate key points.