Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Robert John Levine


This thesis responds to the question: Do physicians have an ethical obligation to care for patients with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)? First, the social and political milieu in which this question arises is sampled. Here we find physicians as well as other members of the community exclaiming an unwillingness to be exposed to people with AIDS. Next, laws, regulations, ethical codes and principles and the history of the practice of medicine are examined, and the literature as it pertains to these areas is reviewed. The obligation to care for patients with AIDS, however, cannot be located in an orientation to morality defined in rules and codes and an appeal to legalistic fairness. By turning to the orientation to morality that emerges naturally from connection and is defined in caring, we find that physicians do, indeed, have an ethical obligation to care for patients with AIDS. Through an exploration of the writings of modern medical ethicists, it is clear that the purpose of the practice of medicine is healing which can only be accomplished in relationship with the patient. It is in relationship to patients that the physician has the opportunity for self-realization. In fact, the physician is physician in relationship to patients and only to the extent that he or she acts virtuously by being morally responsible for and to those patients. To not do so diminishes the physician's ethical ideal, a vision of the physician as good physician, which has consequences for the physician's capacity to care and for the practice of medicine.