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Open Access Debate

Stoicism, the physician, and care of medical outliers

Thomas J Papadimos

Author Affiliations

Department of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Ohio, 3000 Arlington Avenue, Toledo, Ohio 43614, USA

BMC Medical Ethics 2004, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-5-8

Published: 9 December 2004

Abstract

Background

Medical outliers present a medical, psychological, social, and economic challenge to the physicians who care for them. The determinism of Stoic thought is explored as an intellectual basis for the pursuit of a correct mental attitude that will provide aid and comfort to physicians who care for medical outliers, thus fostering continued physician engagement in their care.

Discussion

The Stoic topics of good, the preferable, the morally indifferent, living consistently, and appropriate actions are reviewed. Furthermore, Zeno's cardinal virtues of Justice, Temperance, Bravery, and Wisdom are addressed, as are the Stoic passions of fear, lust, mental pain, and mental pleasure. These concepts must be understood by physicians if they are to comprehend and accept the Stoic view as it relates to having the proper attitude when caring for those with long-term and/or costly illnesses.

Summary

Practicing physicians, especially those that are hospital based, and most assuredly those practicing critical care medicine, will be emotionally challenged by the medical outlier. A Stoic approach to such a social and psychological burden may be of benefit.