Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2016

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Classics, Philosophy, and Religion

First Advisor

Mikhalevsky, Nina

Second Advisor

Vasey, Craig

Major or Concentration



The paper investigates the challenges of knowledge in the physician-patient relationship, both the patient's lack of expert medical knowledge and understanding of his or her medical condition as well as the physician's ignorance of the patient's values and belief systems. Employing an ethic of care, the aim is to bring attention to this dual epistemological difficulty in the patient-provider relationship. The ethics of care provides a lens for understanding, establishing empathy for the patient,and seeking methods in which the patient may become empowered. Channeling the ideas of Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, the paper explicates the argument advanced by Virginia Ashby Sharpe in her article "Justice and Care: The Implications of The Kohlberg-Gilligan Debate" by assessing the conflict between the care and justice orientations in medical ethics. Sharpe concludes that the care orientation is congruent with Dr. Pellegrino's medical morality within the physician-patient relationship. I argue that health care providers need a blend of both the care and justice orientations in order to appropriately apply universal principles to particular medical relationships. I conclude that a blend of both orientations would provide a richer foundational ethic for health care providers as they attend to the suffering of individual patients.

Included in

Philosophy Commons