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Published in N°268 - Book 1 - November 2017
Article viewed 203 times

Is surgical practice dependent on certain cardinal virtues?

By Alain C. Masquelet in category TRIBUNE
Hôpital Saint Antoine, APHP, Paris VI

This is the question that I put to you today: Does surgical practice require fundamental virtues that are uniquely the surgeon’s? The term ‘virtue’, here, is understood in its intellectual – and not moral – sense: that is, as synonymous with ‘capability’, ‘faculty’, ‘property’ or ‘asset’.

This is the question that I put to you today: Does surgical practice require fundamental virtues that are uniquely the surgeon’s? The term ‘virtue’, here, is understood in its intellectual – and not moral – sense: that is, as synonymous with ‘capability’, ‘faculty’, ‘property’ or ‘asset’.

Another way of framing the question would be this: Are surgeons born with certain qualities which make surgery – essentially involving the act of operating – their destiny?

Could such qualities, or virtues, be the reflection of what used to be called the ‘surgeon’s temperament’? Or are such assets themselves born of a slow process and acquired during training, which would mean, rather, that said virtues can be taught?

Let it be noted that, in the current French context, raising the question of surgical skills is subtly relevant to the category of ‘personal skills’ (savoir-être). This skill set is the third in the triad of skills that surgeons must acquire – as determined by French reforms to postgraduate study – and sits alongside the categories of ‘academic knowledge’ and ‘practical knowledge’. However, in the world of surgery, ‘personal skills’ remains a somewhat nebulous category. In order to be a good surgeon, is it not enough to know pathology, to master indications, and to know how to...

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