Another argument for values-based medicine

Main Article Content

Miles Little
Wendy Lipworth
Jill Gordon
Pippa Markham


There is a contemporary dialectic concerning the status of evidence-based medicine, criticising it for being ‘scientistic’, epistemologically inconsistent, rigid and dismissive of non-numerical sources of knowledge. A host of alternative frameworks has been proposed, including values-based medicine, narrative medicine, patient-centered care and person-centered medicine. Person-centered medicine is amongst the most persuasive and well-argued models. Miles and Mezzich  have argued in a major article that person-centered medicine employs theories of personhood to elaborate and justify its epistemology and praxis. At the same time, they claim that person-centered medicine is an ‘emergent’ concept that needs no base or foundation to justify it. We believe, however, that without some foundational values to underpin the status claimed for personhood, the arguments for person-centered medicine are incomplete. We therefore propose a set of foundational values ­­– survival, security and flourishing – that underpin individual and social functioning transculturally. While these values are the same in all cultures, their expressions differ from culture to culture. Importantly, our notion of values is only modestly foundational. Modest foundationalism recognises that foundational propositions are only ‘warrantable assertions’ that may very well change in time and place. Foundational values in this sense are pragmatic and heuristic in kind and not normative. We enter a plea for their recognition in the form of the values-based medicine we describe.

Article Details

Person-centered care and evidence based medicine
Author Biography

Miles Little, Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Australia

Professor Emeritus


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