Cover image for Confessions of a medicine man : an essay in popular philosophy
Confessions of a medicine man : an essay in popular philosophy
Tauber, Alfred I.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 159 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Bradford book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R724 .T38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2000. and First Prize, 2000, American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Medical Book Award in the category of Books for Allied Health Professionals. "My mission is to analyze medicines ethical structure. I do so as both a physician and a philosopher. Of my two voices, it is the latter that is informed by the former. . . . As a physician I have sought professional solutions to the frustrations of fighting a medical system that has become increasingly hostile to my standards of care for my patients; as a philosopher I will explore here the ethical issues I believe are the root of our predicament." --from the introduction In Confessions of a Medicine Man, Alfred Tauber probes the ethical structure of contemporary medicine in an argument accessible to lay readers, healthcare professionals, and ethicists alike. Through personal anecdote, historical narrative, and philosophical discussion, Tauber composes a moral portrait of the doctor-patient relationship. In a time when discussion has focused on market forces, he seeks to show how our basic conceptions of health, the body, and most fundamentally our very notion of selfhood frame our experience of illness. Arguing against an ethics based on a presumed autonomy, Tauber presents a relational ethic that must orient medical science and a voracious industry back to their primary moral responsibility: the empathetic response to the call of the ill.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In this collection of essays on the state of the modern health care system, Tauber, a physician and a professor of philosophy and medicine at Boston University, presents an engaging study of ethics and the medical system. Modeling his book on the Confessions of St. Augustine, Tauber presents his own confessions in a similar way: narrative personal history plus ethical and philosophical discourse. Tauber clarifies both metaphysics and the intricacies of medicine for the lay reader, and he does so with vivid, terse imagery. His narratives are poignant and amazingly real. His philosophy is well grounded in excellent scholarship, his discussions of the philosophy and history of science prove fascinating, and his conclusions are indisputable. The state of our health care system, a need for universal health care, the fractured and imperfect mechanics of health maintenance organizations, patient rights laws, economics, spirituality, interpersonal relations, and many other medical ethics issues are discussed here with alacrity. A fascinating and approachable study on a subject that touches everyone's lives. --Michael Spinella

Choice Review

This jewel of a book, impressively learned yet concise, examines the very essence of medicine--the empathetic care sought by everyone at that vulnerable moment when the bastion of selfhood, the body, is invaded by "the other," disease. In the process, it probes the ethical structure of a profession committed to provide care in the face of current predicaments imposed by the coercion of scientific medicine and its technological imperative, and that of managed care and its financial mandate. In an autobiographical exploration of his career, Tauber (medicine and philosophy, Boston Univ.) thoughtfully analyzes these issues in a skillful knit of personal anecdote, historical narrative, and philosophical discussion. The anecdotes in each section vividly capture the dilemmas and provide for easy association with the problems considered. The subsequent historical narratives provide for an understanding of the evolving forces that have eroded the legend of the caring family doctor, whose classic painting by Sir Luke Fields illustrates the book jacket. Concluding philosophical discussions provide insight into the moral and ethical underpinnings of the encounter between doctor and patient. Written with great lucidity, verve, and mastery of the issues, this is a book to read more than once. All levels. G. Eknoyan; Baylor College of Medicine

Table of Contents

1 Turmoil and Challenges
The Problem of a "New" Agenda
2 The Course of Autonomy
Autonomy in Medicine
The Birth of Liberal Autonomy
The Organic Self
Health as an Ideal
3 The Breakdown of Autonomy
The Romantic Reaction and the Aftermath
Postmodernism and the Self
Autonomy and Care of the Patient
4 The Call of the Other
A Calling
Some Definitions
The Problem
5 Toward a New Medical Ethic
The Call of the Other
A Relational Approach to Medical Ethics
6 Metaphysical Musings
The Infinite Beckons
Eternal Recurrence
The Face
To Face Ourselves
Bibliographic Notes