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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Medical Ethics or, a Code of Institutes and Precepts Adapted to the Professional Conduct of Physicians and Surgeons

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 14 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1936
  1. Daniel K Sokol, lecturer in medical ethics and law, St George’s, University of London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}

    It is commonly believed that the field of medical ethics is a recent one, emerging from various societal and technological changes in the middle of the 20th century. Before then, the belief goes, medical ethics was little more than medical etiquette: how to get patients to pay consultation fees, how to examine a lady, and so on. This, at least, was what I was taught when studying the subject.

    Percival’s Medical Ethics is the first textbook of medical ethics and reputedly the first appearance of the phrase “medical ethics” in the literature. To modern eyes, Percival adopts a holistic approach to patient care: “The feeling and emotions of …

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