A Legacy of Silence: Bioethics and the Culture of Pain
Author: Rich, B.A.
Source: Journal of Medical Humanities, Volume 18, Number 4, 1997 , pp. 233-259(27)
For over 20 years the medical literature has carefully documented the undertreatment of all types of pain by physicians. During this same period, as the field of bioethics came of age, the phenomenon of undertreated pain received almost no attention from the bioethics literature. This article takes bioethicists to task for failing to recognize the undertreatment of pain as a major ethical, and not merely a clinical, failing of the medical profession. The nature and extent of the problem of undertreated pain is examined, as well as possible reasons for its disregard by bioethicists. The factors contributing to undertreated pain in the clinical setting are considered, as well as the hazards posed by recent failures to address ethically questionable clinical practices. Finally, suggestions are offered for refocusing the attention of bioethicists to this significant problem.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Assistant Professor and Assistant Director, Program in Health Care Ethics, Humanities and Law, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Publication date: 1997-01-01