Patients who make terrible therapeutic choices

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The traditional approaches to dental ethics include appeals to principles, duties (deontology), and consequences (utilitarianism). These approaches are often inadequate when faced with the case of a patient who refuses reasonable treatment and does not share the same ethical framework the dentist is using. An approach based on virtue ethics may be helpful in this and other cases. Virtue ethics is a tradition going back to Plato and Aristotle. It depends on forming a holistic character supporting general appropriate behavior. By correctly diagnosing the real issues at stake in a patient's inappropriate oral health choices and working to build effective habits, dentists can sometimes respond to ethical challenges that remain intractable given rule-based methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-45
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of the American College of Dentists
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014


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