Philosophical analysis of the concept of the politic physician in Friedrich Hoffmann's Medicus politicus



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A philosophical and scientific eclectic, Dr. Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742) brought together the wisdom of ancient writers with the new science and philosophy of his day. In the Medicus Politicus (The Politic Physician) (1738) he applied his concepts to medicine and medical ethics. The Medicus Politicus contains the lecture notes of Hoffmann as first professor of medicine at the University of Halle. The work is divided into three parts: the personal characteristics required by the new politic physician; the physician's relationship with other members of the medical community (often competitors); and the patient-physician relationship. This dissertation provides the first comprehensive English-language philosophical analysis and commentary on this work. It addresses two issues found in the Medicus Politicus: Hoffmann's model for the new physician and the medical ethics required in the patient-physician relationship. The political, intellectual and religious upheavals of the Long Eighteenth Century inform the work of Hoffmann. Physicians were not yet considered professionals and competed with the untrained. The new Hoffmannian physician would change that and would develop the personal qualities that were found in the professions of theology and law. Specifically, the Hoffmannian physician would be moral, rational and clinically competent. Hoffmann provided two independent but harmonious foundations to justify these requirements: one theological and one rational. Specifically, Hoffmann was an enthusiastic Pietist, a Natural Law theorist and an evidence-based scientist. His applied ethics is one of the most complete systems ever found in the medical clinical setting as it addresses each stage of the healing process. The focus of the patient-physician relationship is trust and trustworthiness. The physician is trustworthy when he is compassionate and competent. Patient and physician work together towards a mutual goal of the patient's healing. The judgments of both patient and physician are directed by prudence--seeking that which preserves society and individuals. This very mature concept of the ethics of the patient-physician relationship founded on trust and trustworthiness is the basis of modern concepts of patient, fiduciary trust, medical ethics and medicine as a profession.