Conflicting Duties and Restitution of the Trusting Relationship

In the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Andreas Eriksen attempts to clarify the normative situation of medical professionals who are faced with conflicting duties.


It is often claimed that medical professionals are subject to conflicting duties in their role morality. Some hold that the overridden duty taints the professional and generates a patient claim to a form of moral compensation. This paper challenges such a ‘compensation view’ of conflict and argues that it misleadingly makes the role morality into a personal contract between professional and patient. Two competing views are therefore considered. The ‘unity view’ argues that there are no real conflicts between professional duties. Hence, there can be no residual duties that are impossible to discharge and no special claim on the part of the patient. It is argued that this fails because the institutional nature of the role morality requires us to accept possibility of conflict. The paper articulates and defends a third view, where conflict triggers a professional duty of restitution. This duty is not a matter of making amends for a previous wrong, but rather a matter of rebuilding a trusting relationship that has been damaged due to blameless circumstances.

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Andreas Eriksen
Conflicting Duties and Restitution of the Trusting Relationship

Journal of Medical Ethics, Online, 2018
DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2017-104682

Open Access (link)


Published June 18, 2018 10:16 AM - Last modified Sep. 6, 2018 8:20 AM