Towards an ethics of immediacy. A defense of a noncontractual foundation of the care giver-patient relationship

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In this article, I argue that the relationship between patients and their health care providers need not be construed as a contract between moral strangers. Contrary to the (American) legal presumption that health care providers are not obligated to assist others in need unless the latter are already contracted patients of record, I submit that the presence of a suffering human being constitutes an immediate moral commandment to try to relieve such suffering. This thesis is developed in reference to the French philosopher Levinas and the Dutch theologian Schillebeeckx. An expanded version of the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan serves as test case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-9
Number of pages9
JournalMedicine Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Contracts
  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Narration
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Social Responsibility

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